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Gems from the Garden:
Digging Up Activities for All Ages


Spring has sprung! As temperatures warm and snow melts, educators search for ways to invite new growth into their classrooms. The Internet is full of hands-on activities for the indoor and outdoor gardener. Plant a seed, design a garden, or investigate the life of a worm -- welcome the new season with those activities and a crop of others. Included: Online resources for students to plan and plant their own Fantasy Farm.

"We believe that the positive experiences kids have in the garden, especially at an early age, provide a vital foundation for developing a lifelong ethic of stewardship for the Earth," said Jim Flint, of the National Gardening Association (NGA). The Vermont-based organization has two goals: helping gardeners and helping people through gardening.

"Learning science through gardening is a natural for children -- and it's exciting for teachers to experience their students' wonder in watching a seedling unfurl, a flower blossom, and the fruits of their labors appear!" Flint told Education World.

Research backs up the benefits of such rich curricula, added Flint. "Researchers at Texas A & M University, who measured changes in environmental attitudes for elementary students in gardening classrooms, support what garden-based educators have experienced for many years: that children engaged in a cross-disciplinary gardening curriculum acquire a direct, personal understanding of what living things require to thrive, and how they adapt and interact with each other."

GARDENING IN THE CLASSROOM

There are many ways to include gardening in classroom activities. "The tried and true way to incorporate plants and gardening is to have students germinate seeds in cups or pots on the classroom windowsill," explained Flint. "Radishes, marigolds, and bean seeds are favorites because of their quick germination and ability to keep growing, even under less-than-ideal conditions."

However, Flint believes that there is more to be experienced than the simple windowsill garden. "Classroom gardening can mean so much more when teachers go 'beyond the bean seed' and challenge students to experiment with growing a variety of seeds and plants in differing environments," he stated.

To help teachers integrate the garden into classroom lessons, the NGA Web site, KidsGardening.com, offers resources for teachers and families.

TEN WAYS TO PARTY WITH PLANTS

The Internet is rich with activities that incorporate greenery. Jump into spring with one of these bright blossoms!

Plant a seed. The traditional classroom favorite activity of growing plants from seeds can be expanded with the help of the suggestions from Gardening Projects Kids Will Dig. For growing fun without soil Growing Sprouts offers instructions that teach youngsters to raise edible sprouts. Don't forget to have your students keep a diary of the activity in order to preserve a record of the plant's development during each day or week of its growth.

Learn in the garden. Beyond simply growing seeds in the classroom, creating a school garden offers students a chance to raise plants that students can eat and enjoy. It shows children the missing steps between seed and supermarket. Garden: Activities in Four Seasons will assist you by providing lessons that complement the gardening experience. There are adventures in the garden during all seasons, if you know where to find them!

Design a garden. Using a virtual Garden Planner, students may test their landscaping skills or prepare for the planting of an actual garden by designing a garden plot. Also check out our teaching master, Fantasy Farm. In this activity, students use a planting guide from The Old Farmer's Almanac to find crops to grow on an imaginary farm. They record the favorable planting dates for their crops and find other regions that share the same growing schedule.

Host a plant show. Do you have a fabulous plant at home that you would love to share? Your students may have great plants that they would like to show you and one another! Hold a plant show for all types of vegetation, and allow each student to prepare a short presentation that tells the story of the plant he or she is sharing. Kid's Valley Garden has several tips for showing on its site. Be sure to include certificates and/or ribbons for the most unusual, lush, and colorful plants at your show.

Tour an online garden. If you aren't lucky enough to have a handy greenhouse or garden to visit in person, online gardens are the next best thing for your field adventures! For indoor enjoyment, a Pittsburgh landmark provides the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Virtual Tour. Here, students may view stunning pictures of plants and structures among its many indoor and outdoor gardens. Outside exploration can be found at Roanoke Island, North Carolina, at the The Elizabethan Gardens. For fun, have your students create a brochure for one of these interesting gardens.

Study flowers. Just as an X-ray uncovers a broken bone or a troublesome tooth, an X-ray may also expose the hidden beauty of flowers. Albert Richards, a University of Michigan professor emeritus, presents his own unique view of the essence of flowers on his Web site, Floral Radiographs: The Secret Garden. Here, students may examine radiographs of various flowers to appreciate their intricacy and delight in their simplicity. What unusual ways can your students find to study flowers? In their opinion, which method of viewing flowers -- as we normally see them or through an X ray -- shows their beauty best?

Make a wildflower guidebook. Few gardening activities are as fun and versatile as putting together a wildflower guidebook. Show your students Wildflowers in Bloom, DesertUSA Wildflower Field Guide, and Florida Wildflower Showcase as examples. Then have students prepare pages of their own guidebook by either drawing or taking pictures of local wildflowers and researching facts about them. Assemble the pages, and distribute copies to the class. Consider going global with this assignment and share your findings on the Web!

Investigate a worm's world. Get up close with worms by building a Worm Habitat or a Worm Condo (archived copy) in your classroom. If you prefer not to get quite so close to your subject, The Adventures of Herman and Yucky Worm World teach students about the benefits of worms without the mess! These online explorations contain details about the bodies of worms and many other worm facts. Invite your explorers to write an original interview with an earthworm.

Send in the birds, butterflies, and frogs. Many garden owners prefer the visitors that their gardens bring to their yards to the organisms in the garden itself. Your students can find out what appeals to hummingbirds at Hummingbirds.net. The right flowers can draw these miniature wonders. Another source of enjoyment to gardeners is the multitude of butterflies attracted by some flowers. The Butterfly WebSite and Children's Butterfly Site show students how to design a garden that calls to these creatures. One of the favorite garden visitors for students is the frog, and they can learn about this animal at Frogland! The site includes a section of things that students can do to help save frogs -- setting up a garden and a compost heap are among those ideas. Create a chart of a diagram that shows which garden features attract the three different species. Which of those things might attract more than one species?

MORE GARDEN ACTIVITY RESOURCES

Fun Project Ideas
This page is full of terrific ideas for plant activities inside and outside of the classroom.

Plant Thematic Unit
The Teacher's Corner supplies educators with a fabulous list of links for a gardening unit as well as a handful of good plant activities and a list of books to complement your study.

Garden Journals
What a wonderful way for kids K-3 to learn about and share in the excitement of gardens ... even in those cold winter months. This lesson incorporates Art, Reading, Writing and Science.

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2010 Education World

 

 

 

Originally published 03/01/2002
Last updated 02/20/2010

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