Field of Greens

Exploring Grasses

"Several years ago, as part of a math unit on grids and measurement, my fourth graders grew grasses right at their desks in mini-greenhouses made from recycled plastic containers," reports Cox's Creek, KY, teacher Fred Siler. As students observed, measured growth, and cared for grasses up close (then moved the plants to the GrowLab for more light), they discussed the roles and importance of grasses to humans and wildlife.

Solar vs. Supplemental Heat

There is a distinction between greenhouses that are heated largely by the sun and those that receive supplemental heat. In all but the deep South of the United States, the sun is never directly overhead, but moves across the southern sky from east to west. Its arc is higher in the summer and lower in the winter.

Solar greenhouses are meant to maximize light and heat, and to heat with the same light used to grow.

Greenhouse Styles


Greenhouses can be either freestanding or attached to a building and come in a variety of styles. Most commercial greenhouses are freestanding structures built in exposed areas with plenty of sunlight (maximum sunlight is the most important factor for efficient plant growth).

Way-Cool Student Compost

Sure, compost is made from kitchen scraps ranging from broccoli stems to coffee grounds, but the term is usually applied to plant material once microbes have heated, then transformed it into a rich, earthy mixture. Eighth grade student Aaron Didich had another idea.

Selecting a Greenhouse

Greenhouse questions and considerations

If your school is considering building, purchasing, or resurrecting a greenhouse, there are a number of factors to consider--and questions to ask--long before you begin designing planting projects. This section highlights some of those factors.

Your decision about the type of greenhouse will be influenced by how you plan to use it.

Planning Questions

Gather key participants in your school to answer the following questions early in the planning process:

Cultivating Writers

Inspiring Plant Stories

While literature can inspire gardening projects and investigations, growing and observing plants can also motivate students to create their own stories and tales.

Garden Tales

Growing Literature Connections

"Whenever I plan to introduce a new garden-based science unit to my bilingual third graders, I look for stories relating to the topic," explains Salinas, Ca, teacher Artemis Ledesma.

"Before sharing these stories, I have students create a chart detailing what they know, and what they would like to know, about the topic," she adds. "I then choose a book that builds on that prior knowledge, providing background information and prompting further thinking and discussion."

School Greenhouse Guide

Opening New Worlds of Growing Experiences

Introducing greenhouse gardening into the classroom enriches the curriculum

[img_assist|nid=13778|title="Through this project-based curriculum, I have seen kids begin to realize that a plant is a living thing and that what they do to that plant on a day-to-day basis matters," shares Sandy May-Fitzgerald, a special education biology teacher.

Presenting Peanuts

So, you've raised an herb or salad garden -- experienced the excitement of growing lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers to maturity right in your classroom. What's next? Have you considered peanuts? Although they have a fairly long growing season -- approximately 5 months -- a few humble peanut plants indoors can provide a backdrop for studying history, geography, nutrition and more.

Plants and Soil: The Nutrition Connection

Students sometimes believe that plants get their "food" from the soil. Scientists, meanwhile, understand that plants manufacture their own food -- simple sugars -- using energy from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide from the air.

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Last updated on 09/19/2014
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