Teach Real World Science and Eat it Too!
Connect Students to Agriculture, Environmental Science, and Nutrition Skills with a Classroom Garden
Looking for a cure for your students' cabin fever after the long, cold winter throughout many parts of the country? Get outdoors and plant a classroom garden!
Aside from the immediate benefits you'll reap from the fresh air, sunshine, and good old fashioned physical activity while digging in the dirt, a classroom garden is the perfect way to introduce students to real-life applications for agriculture, environmental science, sustainability, and nutrition while incorporating hands-on science practices and concepts in your daily lessons.
According to growth-minds.org, an organization that trains individuals, schools and communities to incorporate school gardening, nutrition, and cooking with locally-grown crops into their curriculum, school gardens are an excellent tool for experiential learning and nutritional education.
Whether you start with a few potted plants on your classroom window sill, or get the whole school community involved with planting fruits and veggies in a dedicated area of your school yard, classroom gardens are a hands-on way to engage student interest in science, food, nutrition, entrepreneurship, and more, both inside the classroom and out in the field.
Want to start your own classroom garden? Here are some tips for getting started this spring:
- Choose the Right Crops: Decide which crops you'll plant based on when your class will be there to plant, care for, and harvest. For springtime planting in April that will be ready to pick in June, plant "cool season" vegetables like lettuce, carrots, radishes, and beets. For summer classes, plant "warm season" plants in May that will be ready to harvest in late summer and early fall, like peppers, tomatoes, beans, and squash. Ask students which vegetables they like to eat, or to pick something new they'd like to try, and take a vote of which veggies to plant!
- Team Up and Take Turns: When it's time to plant, head out to your designated garden area and divide students into teams to tackle jobs like turning up the grass and soil, pulling weeds, digging holes, and planting seeds or starter plants in rows. Then, create a schedule to tend the garden throughout the months ahead. Ask students to sign up in groups or pairs to volunteer their time during a recess, lunch break, or study hall period. Alternately, consider asking a few parent volunteers who like to garden if they would come in once a week to help with any work that students may be unable to do themselves.
- Enlist Help from Other Classrooms, Parents, & Community Members: Send out a request to parents and community for donations of used gardening tools, seeds, or soil. Consider holding a garden supply donation drive at your local farmers' market where members of the community can donate their unused gardening supplies or seeds.
- Start a Classroom Compost: Don't let those banana peels from lunchtime go to waste! Contributing to a compost pile will help enrich your garden soil with key nutrients required for healthy crops and a more bountiful harvest.
- Measure & Test Growing Conditions with Probeware: Incorporating gardening activities into your environmental science lessons using probeware. Ask students to measure and test factors that affect their planting environment to determine the best growing conditions for their crops. Measure GPS location-based data for pH, temperature, humidity and more, with the Ward's DataHub Environmental Science unit, or use the Ward's Single Probes Light, Temperature, and pH sensors to measure individual variables.
- Eat What You Grow: The best part about planting a garden is getting to eat the "fruits" of your labor! Encourage students to take pride in their efforts and learn healthy eating principles by cooking simple and nutritious recipes both at home and in the classroom. Find parent, students, and teacher-approved recipes by vegetable type here.