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 History Lessons

"Our third and fourth grade team is studying the history of this region and the immigrants who settled it," reports Kathy Farrington from South Burlington, VT. With an eye toward making the investigation more meaningful for her pupils, Kathy asked them to interview parents, grandparents, and other elders to find out where they had emigrated from and what types of items they had valued enough to bring with them.

Milkweed Mavens

"My tenth graders had paired up with elementary students to fill a butterfly nectar garden with butterfly bush, black-eyed Susans, and so on, then realized the need for larval host plants," reports Collegeville, PA, teacher Sandy Sweeney.

Students knew from researching the monarch that the caterpillars needed milkweed, so they decided to collect its seeds and try to raise seedlings in the GrowLab to transplant to the garden.

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.

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.

Plants and Energy

Photosynthesis: During photosynthesis, plants absorb radiant energy from the sun (kinetic) and convert and store it as chemical energy (potential).What do plants have to do with energy? Believe it or not, in one way or another they’re related to almost every energy-oriented topic in the news today!   

Winter Twigs Inquiry

Trees make flower and leaf buds during warm weather when there is plenty of sun available for growth. These buds lie dormant during the winter (or dry months), then open in late winter and spring when stimulated by warmth, water, and/or increased day length. Investigating winter twigs in the classroom offers a great opportunity for inquiry.

For instance, have students observe, then draw and describe the different features and patterns they see. 

Rousing Tree Seeds

A few tips for successful seed germination

You'll improve your chances of successfully germinating tree seeds if you gather them as they mature, just before or after they drop from the tree. Have students inspect their finds, then discard those that have pinholes that could be caused by worms or that have other obvious damage. Another trick is to empty seeds into a bucket of water and discard the floaters, which are less likely to grow. Before trying to germinate tree seeds (and other wild seeds), you need to brush up on dormancy.

The Three Sisters

Native American Gardening

Although native peoples from different parts of North America used a wide range of agricultural techniques, perhaps the best known is the interplanting of corn, beans, and squash together--a trio considered by the Iroquois Indians of the east as "The Three Sisters." Numerous school gardeners in our network have experimented with Three Sisters and other Native American plantings, and others have expressed interest in doing so.

Corn Confidentials

Corn, called "mahiz" by the first Americans who met Columbus, and known by much of the world as maize, is known today by the botanical name Zea mays.

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Copyright © 1999-2014 National Gardening Association     | &      |     Created on 03/15/99, 

Last updated on 12/16/2014
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