In Ground

Cultivating Inquirers

Watching pollination first hand is bound to draw inquiry out of your school gardeners."There's no question that teachers and students are equally fascinated when they have ample time to observe and investigate flowers and their pollinating partners," reports Lisa Wagner, education coordinator at the South Carolina Botanical Garden.

Insect Appeal

What if your students don't show an immediate interest in exploring plants? "Our connections with the creatures who live in our garden provided the hook that eventually led my second language learners to want to explore plants and their flowers more closely," reports elementary school science resource teacher Brandyn Scully from Los Angeles, CA. "Let's face it, busy insects are a compelling draw for most kids," she adds.

Petal Attraction

"The biggest thrill for my kids was noticing the constant changes from month to month in colors, textures, and insect life as different flowers bloomed in our wildflower patch," reports Wilmington, DE, teacher Sandy Thurston. Each of Sandy's learning-disabled students observed and sorted the seeds in a pinch of a wildflower seed mixture, calculated the percentages of different types of seeds, then made predictions about how different seedlings would look once they grew, using catalogs and identification books as resources.

Peas, Beans, and ... Bacteria?

While researching legumes -- the family of plants that includes peas, beans, and clovers -- Page Keeley's seventh graders in Cooper's Mills, ME, learned that microbes can be magnificent, and they came to appreciate the interdependence of life on Earth.

Turn on Learning With Bulbs

"A bulb is a promise," Wendy Sherman tells her pre-schoolers in Sudbury, MA. "You can do your part to provide certain basic conditions for them, and then you have to hope that nature comes through with the rest." These marvelous packages, each containing a complete miniature plant and its lunch, can provide a captivating theme for exploring plant growth and adaptations, using math skills, and enriching history, while brightening winter classrooms with the promise of spring.

Thematic Gardens

School gardens can take a variety of shapes and sizes. These barrels are placed outside each classroom and can easily complement lessons.An ordinary mixed vegetable, flower, and herb garden provides endless possibilities for explorations across the curriculum. Many schools have also chosen to create special thematic gardens to focus and inspire garden adventures. Consider the possibilities of a Native American garden, for instance, for making connections to social studies and beyond.

Sensational Soils

Michael Zahm's fourth graders in Carmel, IN, gathered lots of "dirt" this year -- quite literally -- as a way of linking geography and earth science studies with indoor gardening. Letters went out early in the year to parents, teachers, and other students asking them to bring back samples of soils from their travels and vacations. By February, a remarkable 55 soil samples from 20 different states had been returned to the kids, who then plotted each sample on a map.

Singing Sunflower Praises

Sunflowers provide school gardeners a visual and edible treat!We've heard from a number of teachers who have reported that growing sunflowers, both indoors and out, has inspired student enthusiasm, questions, and studies across the curriculum. "They're big seeds, very fast growing, brightly inviting, and a popular snack food in my class," reports resource teacher Carol Ann Margolis from Smithville, NJ. "And I find that they're good for most types of investigations of seed germination and plant growth."

Grassroots Learning

The rapid disappearance of native prairies in the Midwest inspired a local farmer to help Ellen Wellborne's sixth graders in Nerstrand, MN, explore a local prairie up close. Students examined and compared different layers of prairie soil with woodland soil, then grew barley in samples of each soil, reports Ellen. "Students expected the woodlands to have deep, rich topsoil, but were shocked to see how much better the plants and their roots grew in the prairie soils," she adds. "This prompted them to want to further explore the history and ecology of the prairie."

Migrating Seeds

Alaskan Students Seek Seed Swap

"You can imagine how short our growing season must be here in Anchorage (AK)," reports teacher Glenn Oliver. "But my second through sixth grade students don't let that get in the way of our gardening."

"We just have to do things a little differently, such as raising certain crops inside our greenhouse," he adds. Not a bad choice. Those Alaskan summer days pushed his students' greenhouse-grown corn to 13 feet! (Consider sharing this with your students, then exploring what, besides being in a greenhouse, could account for such phenomenal corn growth.)

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Kids Gardening and the National Gardening Association actively work with schools and communities across the country to provide educational resources and build gardens to promote health, wellness, and sustainability.

 

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Last updated on 07/31/2014
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