Fall

Classroom Wiggler Tales

A million of them could live in an acre of soil. They can "eat" their own weight in soil and organic waste every day. We're hearing more and more from classrooms using nature's recyclers to engage, motivate, and spark investigations and understanding of key life science concepts. Here are highlights from some schools that have gotten hooked on worms.

Courtyard U.S.A. Garden

Kindergarten classes at Carmel (IN) Elementary School cultivate flowers in Alaska, while fifth graders tend cotton and peanuts in the Deep South. They're not national travelers but participants in an ambitious "Courtyard U.S.A." garden project. Faced with the specter of expensive landscaping for a renovated school courtyard, teachers and PTO members brainstormed a more educational use of the courtyard.

Seeds to Go

Saving and Sharing Treasures

"Late one summer, my first graders noticed that the lettuce plants in our school garden were getting taller and sending up flowers," reports Westfield, IN, teacher Nedra Hoard. "So we took our hand lenses, observed what was happening, and eventually noticed that seeds were forming where the flowers had been."

Following Fall

Leading with Leaves

"My fourth graders love selecting trees to adopt and explore in depth each year," reports Grand Rapids, MN, teacher Jan Ferraro. Last year a colleague from St. Olaf College and I brainstormed how to develop a technology-based project that integrates our interest in trees while also addressing curriculum standards," she added. The result of their collaborative musing? An Internet-based fall phenology project designed to help students explore changes in the seasons, collect and grapple with data, and share and communicate their experiences with others.

Nutritious Lessons

Snack Food Garden

"A parent volunteer in my multiage class was appalled with the sugary snacks he saw the children eating during mid-morning break," reports Wesminster, VT, teacher Irene Canaris. "As a farmer concerned about children's awareness of healthy eating, he offered to help us create a 'snack garden' that now nourishes the entire class throughout the school year."

Hooked on Hydroponics

"We had already enjoyed conducting GrowLab curriculum activities and felt ready to expand our growing experiences to some new areas," reports Wichita Falls, TX, teacher Linda Bishop. Her fourth grade students decided to try hydroponics (growing plants without soil). First they did some research, then contacted a local commercial hydroponic lettuce grower for advice. With his support, the students designed a PVC pipe and pump setup for growing lettuce hydroponically in their school greenhouse.

Corn Queries

"My students had been reading about Native Americans and noticed the many references to corn and its range of uses," reports Cambridge, MA, third and fourth grade teacher Marianne Moll. "This inspired a series of questions about corn: Where did it come from? How did it grow? How was it used? So I drew on the students' curiosity, helping them to organize their questions and encouraging collaborative investigations."

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.

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Last updated on 04/23/2014
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