Sowing Seeds of Inquiry

A long-term investigation prompted by some humble potatoes confirmed for first grade teacher Carol Flicker of Herndon, VA, how her students' learning and abilities could unfold when she let their curiosity guide their inquiries.

Puzzling Out Growing Challenges

"By fourth grade, it seems that students' creativity and curiosity are often squelched," reports Easton, ME, teacher Vaughn Martin. "To counter that shift, I always seek ways to spark their interest and bring learning to life," he adds.

Cultivating Decision Makers

Butterfly Gardeners Take Charge

An outdoor garden that began with an offer of help from a landscape architect parent turned into much more for a group of second graders in Athens, GA.

Prairie Explorers

Growing Student Planners, Investigators, and Problem Solvers

"The description in The White Stallion of a young girl heading West during the 1800s intrigued my third graders," reports Barbara Vlasvich from Aurora, IL.

"After we wandered through the tall grass maze in a local prairie preserve and talked about the demise of such ecosystems, several kids suggested that we create our own at school." Barbara saw an opportunity to use the class penchant for prairies to engage students as planners, investigators, and problem solvers.

Digging Deeper with Wildlife Habitats

Here are ideas for sparking learning with wildlife habitats:

  • Invite students to create an indoor habitat exhibit. Have them use drawings and magazine and seed catalog clippings to create a display depicting a habitat for butterflies, birds, or other animals.

Plant Watchers

Tracking Blooms

"When we began the PlantWatch Project, my sixth graders were tickled by the idea that plants can tell us things we wouldn't know if we didn't look at them," reports Peggy Bergmann from Alberta, Canada.

Courtyard Allure

"One day when the sun was high and there were clouds in the sky -- but not many -- we went to the courtyard. I saw leaves gleaming in the sun. I saw fragrant flowers. I also saw things that looked like bamboo but had green leaves sprouting up all over, and a few purple flowers here and there. I saw bugs that any time you would come close to them would pop out of their hiding places. I heard leaves rustling in the breeze... It is hard to describe what I felt like but this is what I choose: I felt like I could talk to nature." --4th grade student

Learning Soars in Butterfly Garden

"Our students have certainly learned the basics about butterflies and the plants they depend on, but our butterfly garden has yielded an even richer harvest than that," says fifth grade, Orion, IL, teacher Marcia Whitmore. "What we've learned in this microcosm has prompted a richer understanding of ecology and the need to conserve habitats in other parts of the world," she adds.

Garden-Based Learning Scores

"I had never gardened myself and didn't even know what a radish seed was," reports second and third grade Louisville, KY, teacher Andrea Miller.

According to new Kentucky Educational Reform act, she explains, teachers are mandated to ensure that learning experiences are relevant and help kids make connections to their own lives. "A growing project seemed like an ideal opportunity," she adds.

The Garden Do-Gooders

Insects and Their Importance

Although humans fear and revere them, abhor and adore them, there are no inherently "bad" or "good" insects. They are all simply trying to make a living and create offspring according to their natural programming. But from a gardener's perspective, some insects are worth keeping around and others are just, well . . . pests. Most garden insects, in fact, do more good than harm. Just who are these benign bugs and what do they do for us? Read on.

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Last updated on 04/20/2014
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