Engaging ordinary people in science research isn’t something new. In fact, one of the first formal citizen science projects, the Christmas Bird Count, began in 1900! But in the last 20 years or so, many scientists and educators have embraced this strategy as a winning research and educational tool. Here we describe some of the projects that just might engage your young gardeners, habitat sleuths, and environmental stewards.
Teaching Life Skills through a Youth Garden Business
Vocational agriculture teacher Rose Ormsby-Krueger (North Hollywood, California) uses a cut flower garden and farmers’ market enterprise to teach North Hollywood High School students valuable life skills. “Flowers don’t tell you they’re hungry every day, but they tell you they’re thirsty,” she says. “It takes responsibility to make sure they get watered and taken care of.”
Whether starting zinnia seeds on a sunny windowsill, planting blooming bulbs in a container, or growing big garden plots of flowers so they can make and sell bouquets at the local farmers’ market, schoolchildren all over the United States experience the beauty of cut flowers as they learn valuable math, science, art, and history concepts.
Growing flowers helps teach kids many art, language, language arts, math, and science concepts—along with patience, responsibility, and appreciation for the natural world. Below are some lesson ideas we really like.
Creating compost and exploring its creatures can be cool. So can tracking garden pollinators. It’s well-accepted that when students dig in with hands and minds, they build skills and grasp concepts. Now, imagine how your young scientists would flourish if you also invited them to interpret and portray their discoveries through a cast of characters; dramatic story; poem, rap, or song; musical performance; or interpretive dance.
Inner City Market Garden: Fresh Produce at Low Cost
A former classroom teacher with a passion for raising healthful food, Arna Caplan was volunteer director of a winning seed-to-table school garden program at an inner city K-8 school in Denver. “The Fairmont garden was always a special and accessible place where all students were welcome and involved,” says Arna. But as in many such projects, finding volunteers to maintain the garden through the summer was a huge challenge.
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.