Besides a shovel, the most useful tool for a school garden

13 Sep

This is a gift. I’m writing this post for any teacher or parent in Durham or North Carolina who’s worked hard to establish an edible school garden. It’s tough work, so HOORAY for getting this far. Awesome job, you!

But if you’re anything like me, you may be realizing that the harder work has just begun. Because now you have to figure out how to get a bunch of already-overworked teachers, who may not know or care the least little bit about gardening, interested in taking classrooms outside to do … what exactly?

Our garden's first muscadine grapes

So here’s what I want to give you: a sequenced set of fall/winter 1st-5th grade lessons to use in a school garden, all of which correlate with North Carolina Standard Course of Study. Very easy, very relevant.

15 Lessons for 1, 2 and 3 graders (LCnG_Lower_EL)

15 Lessons for 4 and 5 graders (LCnG_Upper_EL)

I say “easy” because Durham teachers wrote these lessons with other non-gardening teachers in mind.

But I want to put the emphasis on “relevant.” You might believe that it’s important for kids to spend time outdoors and that it’s unquestionably worthy to provide fresh, garden-grown vegetables to children. And I would agree with you. But some might argue that there are more pressing, academic-type things to accomplish during the school day, and to those people I would say, “OK then, here! These lessons just might be the perfect tool for you!”

At our school, we installed an educational, edible garden. But teachers didn’t see how it related to curriculum. To some, it seemed like just one more thing they had to do. A few of them told me that, quite honestly, it simply “wasn’t their thing.”

Result: The garden was sort of a fun “extra” that didn’t connect with classroom curriculum. That’s why I asked four teachers from our school to write the lessons. So now, classroom teachers have a set of structured lessons, and each class has a scheduled weekly garden/science time slot during which they can use these lessons if they wish.

Our school was lucky enough to win a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation for this lesson-writing project. And we want to share the series with anyone who’s walking down this road with us, trying to develop a school-wide gardening program.

The lessons are brand new, so if you notice anything that needs fixing, I hope you’ll tell me. I also hope you’ll tell me if you decide to use the lessons. It helps us make the case for more funding of these sorts of projects. We’re working on 30 more lessons now, for spring semester.

Every few pages, you’ll see a recipe for something healthful that classrooms can make using what’s ripe in the garden — or a fabulous dip they can make for fresh veggies, since so much of our garden’s bounty can be eaten raw.

Mostly, though, you’ll see lessons that accomplish two things:

First, these lessons connect students with the land and the seasons, and help them discover where food really comes from. (Answer: Not, in fact, Costco.)

Second, they allow teachers to teach a lot of the things they have to teach anyway — decomposition, plant life cycles, insects, weather, erosion, etc. Only this way, they get to do it outside in a hands-on, experiential way.

New garden beds and walking path on the playground

Teachers at George Watts Montessori have just begun to roll out the lessons, with each classroom doing one lesson per week, more or less in sequence.

Tip: If you want to try the lessons out, here’s what to get in the ground now: herbs, radishes, carrots, lettuce, spinach broccoli, onions and wheat (for 4th and 5th grades, and it doesn’t need to be planted quite yet). Why? Because these are the plants that students will grow, harvest, cook with, and use in the lessons. If you plant those things, students will have what they need to delve into some cool science and literacy lessons.

What do you think? Is this something your school and teachers could use?

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5 Responses to “Besides a shovel, the most useful tool for a school garden”

  1. A Barnes September 16, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    Stephanie Cain raved about these! She asked (rhetorically): do people realize how valuable this is!?!?! They are trying them out at her kids’ school. WONDERFUL job!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 5 ways edible gardens make kids smarter and healthier « Growing Gardeners - February 1, 2011

    […] It’s a learning lab. I’ve told you before about the garden-based curriculum we’re using at George Watts Montessori. But teachers don’t always need customized […]

  2. Guest/5 Ways Edible Gardens Make Kids Smarter and Healthier | Zomppa - International Food Magazine - February 17, 2011

    […] It’s a learning lab. I’ve told you before about the garden-based curriculum we’re using at George Watts Montessori. But teachers don’t always need customized lessons to […]

  3. Reading, writing and ratatouille: Students get cooking « Growing Gardeners - February 28, 2011

    […] science and math lessons to do in a garden, and in our school, teachers have already created 30 lessons’ worth of connections with N.C. Standard Course of […]

  4. Reading, writing and ratatouille: Students get cooking | GROWING GARDENERS - March 3, 2011

    […] science and math lessons to do in a garden, and in our school, teachers have already created 30 lessons’ worth of connections with N.C. Standard Course of […]

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