Outdoor

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.

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."

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.

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.

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."

Ethnobotany: The People-Plant Connection

"As part of our plant studies, I invited my fourth and fifth graders to brainstorm all of the items they could that contained corn," reports Tucson, AZ, teacher Michelle Tuchek. "They came up with a lot of ideas -- corn chips, cornmeal, popcorn, and more." Michelle then brought in a variety of labels from cereals, cosmetics, canned fruits (with corn syrup), and so on, challenging students to look for evidence of corn, then to group the items according to the number of corn-related products each contained. "Students were amazed at just how prevalent corn products were," she relates.

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.

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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 07/25/2014
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