It’s time to head back to school! Are you looking for lessons to help you integrate gardening into your classroom curriculum, hands-on activities for your after school program, or innovative ideas for engaging your home-schooled children in the garden? We have a wealth of resources and ideas for you!
Check out these books published by KidsGardening.org:
The Growing Classroom
The Growing Classroom, written by garden educators at Life Lab, was the first garden guide I ever purchased almost 20 years ago and one that still holds a prominent place on my resource shelf. Although it has since been revised many times, its popularity over the years is a testament to the fact that the lessons provided are tried and true favorites that provide any garden educator with foundational gardening activities for a wide range of ages. It also offers excellent how-to information supporting the creation of successful and sustainable garden programs.
An exciting feature, Life Lab now offers teachers access to a database that shares how every lesson in The Growing Classroom correlates with the new Common Core Math and Language Arts standards and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). You can access this database at: http://www.lifelab.org/content-standards/.
"It used to be that teachers felt like they had to "sneak" garden-based science lessons into their students' education,” shares Whitney Cohen, Education Director at Life. Recently, “we saw first hand how the tide is turning and hands-on, minds-on, inquiry-based, outdoor science education is being encouraged in schools. The K-12 Science Supervisor for the Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island called to place the largest order we've ever had for our Growing Classroom activity guide, 625 copies, because she saw useful connections between the activities and approach outlined in our book and the goals set forth by the new Next Generation Science Standards. Every elementary science teacher in her district will be provided with a copy of the book at the start of the 2016-2017 school year!"
Check out this YouTube video to watch a sample lesson from The Growing Classroom in action.
If you are looking for a more formal curriculum to get your students excited about science while also introducing them to the garden-related topic of food systems, Growing Food, part of the LiFE curriculum series, is the book for you. Written by educators at the Teachers College in New York City and funded by a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health, the goal of the LiFE curriculum is for students to acquire knowledge about how food is preserved, packaged, and processed and the resulting impact on the environment. The hope is that through the analysis, children develop critical thinking skills that help them identify the pros and cons of the current food system so they can work towards developing socially and environmentally healthy communities.
Each lesson offers detailed instructions to guide you through implementation using a five-phased learning cycle including questioning, experimenting, searching, theorizing, and applying to life. It is an excellent resource for educators wanting additional support to create an inquiry-based science classroom.
"In science education," shares one of the authors, Dr. Angela Calabrese Barton, "we often hear about the importance of hands-on activities. We believe in that, too; however, we also believe that hands-on activities have to be followed with the hard work of building new and deeper understandings if we are to really be successful in helping all students become scientifically literate."
One of the biggest challenges in implementing a school garden program is the timing of the school year. Especially in northern climates, the growing season is just beginning when the school year is concluding making it a challenge for students to see crops grow through harvest and often resulting in the need to find volunteer help for summer maintenance. The GrowLab Curriculum was created to allow schools more flexibility in gardening than what their local environment might offer through the use of indoor grow light gardens.
That being said, GrowLab lessons are designed so that they can be implemented along side an indoor or an outdoor garden. Divided into 4 chapters, topics introduced include plant needs, plant growth and life cycles, plant adaptations, and ecosystem basics. Adaptable for a wide audience range, kindergarten through 8th grade, I have used GrowLab for both formal classroom lessons and informal after school and summer camp activities. Another plus, most of the activities need very simple, inexpensive supplies. GrowLab is full of lessons that can be used to introduce students to plant basics in a fun, hands-on way.
Does it sound like one of these resources would help support your garden program? All of these curriculum books and more are available at: www.Gardeners.com/buy/kids-gardening/books-and-curriculum-for-kids/
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- Soil Microbes: Helping Your Tiny Garden Helpers
- School Garden Tip #1: Create a Sense of Ownership
- Growing Young Environmentalists