Garden Planning

To prepare her students for carving out a garden site in the schoolyard, middle school teacher Joan Dungey in Yellow Springs, OH, invited them to reflect on and write about their favorite childhood places. Students next shared their memories with a partner; then each pair presented highlights to the rest of the class. "I found it interesting that nearly all of the students recalled some sort of peaceful natural spot where they had played or explored the world as youngsters," notes Joan.

Space-Age Gardeners

"The Root Loops activity in GrowLab: Activities for Growing Minds provided a great springboard for our third and fourth graders to explore how plants respond to gravity and other stimuli," reports Arcadia, IN, parent volunteer Debbie Mager. Students observed that each time they rotated the petri dishes with bean and corn seeds, the roots found their way downward. This prompted discussions about the effects of microgravity on the growth, flowering, and seed production of plants grown on space vehicles.

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.

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Last updated on 07/28/2014
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