Outdoor

Do Plants 'Eat' Soil? (Student Preconceptions)

Students come to the classroom with ideas about their world, shaped by everyday experience, language, and imaginations that fill in the gaps. Do your students believe that plants suck up food from the soil? Or that trees are not really plants?

Boston first-grade teacher Karen Gallas reports that one student brought in a toy motorcycle, expecting it to grow if planted. Meg Richardson, a teacher liaison for a plant-based curriculum in New York, shared that during a unit on plant parts, students unanimously stated that all roots are brown.

Cross-Grade Garden Tutors

Beth Garver's fifth graders in Effingham, South Carolina have learned about more than just plants using GrowLab. They've discovered the challenges and rewards of sparking young minds. In addition to conducting their own indoor gardening investigations, these fifth graders cooperatively plan, conduct, videotape, and critique science lessons with a first grade class of indoor gardeners.

Thematic Gardens

School gardens can take a variety of shapes and sizes. These barrels are placed outside each classroom and can easily complement lessons.An ordinary mixed vegetable, flower, and herb garden provides endless possibilities for explorations across the curriculum. Many schools have also chosen to create special thematic gardens to focus and inspire garden adventures. Consider the possibilities of a Native American garden, for instance, for making connections to social studies and beyond.

Sensational Soils

Michael Zahm's fourth graders in Carmel, IN, gathered lots of "dirt" this year -- quite literally -- as a way of linking geography and earth science studies with indoor gardening. Letters went out early in the year to parents, teachers, and other students asking them to bring back samples of soils from their travels and vacations. By February, a remarkable 55 soil samples from 20 different states had been returned to the kids, who then plotted each sample on a map.

Singing Sunflower Praises

Sunflowers provide school gardeners a visual and edible treat!We've heard from a number of teachers who have reported that growing sunflowers, both indoors and out, has inspired student enthusiasm, questions, and studies across the curriculum. "They're big seeds, very fast growing, brightly inviting, and a popular snack food in my class," reports resource teacher Carol Ann Margolis from Smithville, NJ. "And I find that they're good for most types of investigations of seed germination and plant growth."

Pondering Peanuts

"As a way of encouraging students to observe deeply and to inquire about the natural world, I gave groups of them peanuts in shells to observe," reports multigrade St. Louis, MO, teacher Doloris Pepple. "I asked them to do just two things at first-to write down everything they could possibly observe, and to list all of the questions that their observations generated. Students came up with a range of excellent questions." The longer and more fully they observed, she notes, the more detail they noticed, and the more questions emerged. Could it grow through the shell?

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.)

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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.

 

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Last updated on 10/24/2014
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