Butterfly gardens are a favorite and enticing schoolyard theme, but these winged beauties, who help move pollen from male to female flowers so fertilization and seed production can occur, are hardly the only such partners. In fact, thousands of different animal species help pollinate plants, including bees of all sizes, tiny wasps, moths, flies, bats, and hummingbirds.
Whether you have only an indoor classroom garden, or are able to also grow 2012 Youth Garden Grant Winner Imagine Grinnell: Students at Imagine Grinnell Garden Program plant corn seeds.outdoors, there are a wide range of "corn-related" activities that can engage your students. Consider the following:
Since fall is when many wild plants release their seeds, it's a good time to explore wild plants' seed dispersal strategies, collect them for you classroom garden, and experiment with methods of inducing them to grow. You'll have the best chance of success if you harvest seeds when they're ripe. Most of the wild plant seeds you collect will be mature or ripe 4 to 6 weeks after they've flowered.
Earth Day and Mothers' Day became a special combined focus last spring for the preschoolers in Wendy Sherman's Sudbury, MA, class. On Earth Day (April 22), students carefully collected small 4-inch oak, white pine, and maple seedlings from the woods and fields around the school. After very gently washing the roots, students were able to examine and compare the different seedlings.
Herbs...the green flecks in spaghetti sauce, the soothing late night teas, the dried mixtures that keep the bathroom air fresh. But did you know that many prescription medicines contain drugs derived from natural herbs? Or that many perfumes and other fragrances are made from the oils in herbs? Herbs have been used for at least 5,000 years by all cultures for cooking, medicine, crafts, and cosmetics. Many herbs are easy to raise in the classroom.
Wildflowers like goldenrods, field asters and sunflowers produce lots of seed in fall and are very easy to grow in spring. (image by Jessie Keith)Growing plants from seeds pictured on bright packets is great fun, but have you considered the potential for excitement and discovery in collecting and planting unknown treasures from the meadows, overgrown lots, or woods in your school environment?
"It was a terrific example of an accident that turned into a teachable moment," reports Minneapolis, MN, teacher Joanne Taft. "That's how my third and fourth graders learned about composting." When Joanne's students returned from a long winter break and discovered that many of their unwatered indoor plants had died, they dumped the moist soil mix and plant remains into a clear plastic bag to discard. But then they began to wonder what might happen to the materials over time so they made predictions and placed the bag in the warmth and light of a windowsill to observe.
So, you've sparked students' curiosity and questions about plants. Now, how do you guide and support them to think and act like scientists as they design and conduct growing investigations? While the "scientific method" is a familiar framework for science investigations, science educators increasingly emphasize that the nature of science and science inquiry is much richer, broader, and more flexible than the traditional lock-step method.