Outdoor

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."

Measuring Up, Metrically Speaking

"My students love to grow plants, they are excellent caregivers when motivated, and they also love contests," reports Nashville, TN, teacher Nancy Johnson. "I combined these facts with the need to teach my fourth graders the metric units of height, weight, and volume by setting up a contest to see which small group could grow the 'biggest' plants." Nancy provided the lima bean seeds and soil, and students discussed how to keep the race fair. They realized that they'd have to keep all growing conditions the same, Nancy reports.

Thematic Gardens Measure Up

Challenges with basic math concepts -- perimeter and area -- dogged many students at a K-5 school in Leeds, AL. On another front, the faculty was looking for inspiration on how to use gardens to enrich learning in different disciplines. "As we considered both challenges, we hit on a solution that might help boost students' grasp of math and engage them in learning across the curriculum," explains enrichment teacher Shirley Farrell. "First, I shared what I knew about the concept of square-foot gardening, then we brainstormed possible growing themes."

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.)

Catch Them Thinking

"Early in the year, I suggest classroom plant investigations, model how to develop predictions about what might happen, and help students set them up," reports second grade teacher Diane Gore from Durham, NC.

Reaping Rewards

How Gardens Grow Kids

"When my kindergarten students move on to new classes, their teachers are surprised and delighted that the kids have such great skills and content knowledge," reports Carmel, CA, teacher Sarah Coburn.

Cultivating, Cross-Culturally

"Our city of San Antonio is a culturally diverse melting pot," reports Master Gardener Vernon Mullens. "Since foods can be a window on cultural understanding and appreciation, we're attempting to open that window with an after-school kid's garden that features foods of ethnic groups from around the world that live in our city." Vernon reports that they've borrowed the African word Sankofa, which means "Go back and fetch it," since participants will "go back and fetch" information and explore and discover through plants something of the cultures that make up their community.

Cultivating Nutrition Awareness

"When one of my fifth graders delightedly exclaimed, 'I can't believe I ate a radish!,' I knew my efforts to use our school garden to expand kids' healthy food choices were a success," reports Tucson, AZ, teacher Michelle Tuchek. "The class conducted a wide range of garden-based nutrition activities, but the biggest catalyst for students' making healthy food choices was their enthusiasm about nurturing, harvesting, and eating their own garden plants."

Lessons to Dye For

Colorful Inquiry

"Imagine the kinds of looks my second graders must have gotten when they asked the grocery store clerk if they could clean the onion skins out of the vegetable bin," reports Cambridge, MA, teacher Bisse Bowman. "But the foraging was fun for them because it was part of our exploration of using plant colors to dye cloth."

Ecosystem Explorations

"Our sixth grade curriculum required us to cover concepts dealing with growth needs, adaptations, and ecosystems," reports Pocatello, ID, teacher Mary McAleese. "So we decided to bring in some live plants to explore up close." Since the classroom was short on light, Mary solicited donations from local plant businesses of tropical plants adapted to low-light conditions on rainforest floors. Before long, the students transformed the classroom into a 40-square-foot rainforest -- a centerpiece for plant and environmental studies, complete with a floor-to-ceiling canvas backdrop.

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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.

 

Copyright © 1999-2014 National Gardening Association     |     www.kidsgardening.org & www.garden.org      |     Created on 03/15/99, 

Last updated on 09/02/2014
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