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Showing posts with label farm to school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label farm to school. Show all posts

Planting Gold with Potatoes Science and Social Studies Connections

I like to start with a book called What's For Lunch...Potatoes by Claire Llewellyn. 

Planting Potatoes is a great way to show your students how their food grows. They can be easily grown in a garbage can or even a laundry basket! I first started planting potatoes outdoors six years ago when I got tired of the FOSS Plant unit planting potatoes in a cup, so why not create a school garden to extend our learning. What we found by planting a garden helped us realize that planting a seed is magic! Not only that, learning that food doesn't all come from a seed from a seed pack is pretty neat, too!

Don't want to plant potatoes? That is okay, too. These lessons can be taught with a bag of potatoes from the grocery store. Want to extend the concept to connecting the Westward Movement and gold rush...keep reading because simulations are perfect for cross curricular activities and getting kids up and moving!

Getting Started: 
What do you need for an introduction potato activity? Seed potatoes and learning stations. Let's get growing!

Next, you can show a little video that shows the process of how they can grow potatoes at home or at school.

Using Potatoes to Learn Science:
Here, we go...now it's time for students to learn about the life cycle of the plant, how it gets from field to fork and also different ways that we eat potatoes. I used  this great site when I first got started it has a ton of resources and ideas: Growing Your Own Potatoes Link

Science Stations Potato Pack
 We use the list we generate in class usually getting over 20 different ways that they are eaten. Here is a few to start with: boiled, baked, chips, pancakes, potato salad, JoJo's, potato skins, German Potato Salad, fries, tater tots, wedges, curly fries, sweet potatoes...

Have them learn about how food gets to our table by watching a quick video and then writing about it!

Interested in your own Potato Pack? Follow the link HERE: Science Stations: Potato Pack

Connecting Cultural Awareness: 
Another great way to add a bit of social studies to your lesson is to discuss where potatoes originated and what cultures eat potatoes at home as a staple food. Europeans typically brought their love of potatoes over and continued to eat them which is why some families eat more than others. We have a great discussion about what everyone's staple food is from rice to tortillas we learn a little bit about our heritage.

Kids that finish my stations get to go and play Mr. Potato Head where I have one of my own children's favorite toy. If you don't have that, have kids make their own by looking at a Mr. Potato Head picture.

Plant some potatoes in a bucket and let them sit until Fall! This is a great way to continue a project that another class started. You can have the planters write letters to give clues as to what is in the bucket or better yet they can go gold mining!

Gold Mining and STEM Connections: 
The best part about planting potatoes is that we get to pick them in the fall! I not only get to see each of my students year after year, I then can continue a lesson! However, not everyone can do this, so a great way to tie STEM activities to a social studies connection is to learn about the gold rush! I help them learn about this in science and then they get to dig for gold...Yukon Gold that is! Tie in measuring and writing and this is a perfect well rounded mini-unit~

Want to give a simulation a try and then connect engineering a wagon and prospector's tool...this pack is for you! Grab the STEM Gold Rush Science and Social Studies Connections HERE!

One potato...two potato...three potato...four, learning about potatoes can be fun and so much more!

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Garden Weeds Otherwise Known As Problems In Your Garden

Planting a garden hasn't been all rainbows and unicorns! There are a lot of problems that can come up when you plant a school garden with kids. Today, I can't wait to share with you some common problems we faced in our school garden and some solutions to get you on the right track!

Problem 1: Take for example when seeds do not germinate! That is the worst thing when kids are waiting for their little seeds to have a little sprout growing from it and it never happens...you have to figure out what to do and my suggestion is to teach a lesson in germination. You can also create an anchor chart prior to planting that helps them understand what seeds need to grow. 

Quick Tip: If you plant seeds without a name on the container or baggie, then the kiddos own all of the seeds that grow or don't grow. We then go to the garden with partners to plant what grew as a group. It seems to eliminate any issues when seeds don't grow (especially their's!)

Another thing you can do then is to discuss why a seed did not germinate. I do that before we even grow a plant as a type of check off list we can refer back to which helps us go back to that anchor chart to predict and make judgments. It really helps your learners understand what might have occurred. 

Problem 2: Another problem that can exist is planting in the garden and then having it die on you. That is an awful feeling when an entire crop isn't productive or the sun was too hot and burned your plants, or even over the weekend they weren't wet enough and dried up...I have to say that all of the above has happened to me at one time or another over the last five years. I can also add a hungry squirrel who ate all of our squash...pumpkins...sunflowers... I can also add to that by saying one year the only flowers we had on our pumpkins were males....I had to teach a bit about the birds and the bees...

Quick Tip: Once again take the opportunity to have a teachable moment such as teaching the life cycle or what plants need to survive. Head back to an anchor chart that you create with your students! It really is a great way to reference!

Here are some other fine examples of why our plants died...I have been know to  put them underneath a grow light and you leave them for over a weekend and you  forget to water them....

or you  forget to turn off the lights because when you come back...you have fried your plants...

Problem 3: Shall we talk about weeds!

Weeds....weeds...and more weeds!!!! There are always weeds to contend with! 

Who is going to pick them? When are you going to pick them?  Who is going to be out in that garden with the kids talking about how weeds are not going to do well for your garden plants because they eat up all of the nutrients in the soil? What are you going to do with the weeds once you pick them? Compost? Leave them lay? Put them in bins for someone to haul away? All things to think about...

Quick Tips: There are great lesson, but when kids pick the plants instead of the weeds there is another problem within a problem. Pick the weed you want them to get for you. I then have them focus on just that weed. You can give each group a different weed to pull, but remember to help them by teaching them leaf structure. You will always have someone pick the wrong thing, but that is a lesson in itself!

Problem 4: All your plants are growing who is going to watch them who is going to pick the vegetables?

Without a team trying to figure out how to harvest those vegetables and maintain watering them and all of the other things that come along with growing a school garden can get overwhelming!

Quick Tips:  Establish your team that will help you water, weed, and harvest. Here are some great options that we have tried:

1. Remind 101 is set up for parents that sign up before school is done to come in and weed, water, and pick. The reward is to take vegetables home. I remind them what to take home and what to let grow.

2. Teach a summer garden class. Each Monday, six weeks out of the summer I teach a garden class. I teach STEM and science lessons and then we weed, plant, and harvest. This helps teach students what the process of growing a garden is all about from start to finish. 

3. Have Americorp help you or other agencies looking to volunteer and help. They are always looking for volunteer hours and I have had great success with volunteers. Check your local garden clubs, Master Gardeners, and University Agriculture classes, too!

One more quick tip that I always get asked...What do you do with all of the vegetables you harvest?

1. We do ding dong ditch with a special garden note on it so when we go to neighborhood homes they know where the veggies came from.

2. I go to our local food pantry, donate, and then take a picture of them receiving it...we want to teach paying it forward.

3. I know where some of my poorest families live as well as our low income housing apartments and I actually like the ice cream truck open my trunk of my car and give out bags of vegetables! They know my car by now and come running! I had to figure out how to divy out the vegetables because they actually remember from week to week who got the "cabbage" or "zucchini".

4. I harvest and bag and I leave them at the front of the school with a sign, please take one! I also go to our local pool that is right behind the school and find families to give food away to!

5. We also plant a ton of vegetables that will be harvested for our school lunchroom. So whether it is our egg roll garden or our coleslaw garden, the cabbages and carrots will wait until our kids get back. Our popcorn garden and pumpkin patch can wait until fall! We replant our peas and pick our beans all season as well as lettuce and kale! 

Are considering a school garden?  I want you to know that planting a seed does really help kids grow, but you also have to take into consideration all of the other components that make a school garden successful. When you have those all in place before you even start putting a seed in the ground you can find out that a seed is truly magical. 
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School Gardens In The Summer: Tips For Maintaining

Our school has had a school garden for fives years! I am the lovely facilitator of that garden...I say that because it is not MY garden...it is the children's' garden! I often get asked how we can maintain a garden and second how it can last that long. Often times, schools want to get on the school garden bandwagon and then after a year find out that it is hard to maintain. If you are remotely interested in starting a garden at your school then here are some quick tips to get you "growing"...

Tip 1:
You NEED to have one person (or more if you are lucky!) that is truly dedicated to maintaining and advocating for your garden. That is me at our school. You then need your administration and your maintenance crew on board as well. Our garden has changed from its original state due to the garden beds being too hard to mow around...the herbs were placed in metal cans which can be unsafe (but we wanted to contain them so that they didn't get out of control...they can do that you know) We as a team, find ways to make sure that our district policies are being followed and yet still hold true to what our vision is.

You need your administration to be on board and part of your team. Whether that is support of your plan, seeing academic benefits, or getting down and dirty along with the kids as they learn how to garden, you truly cannot do it without them on your team!

And let's just say when your administration sees it as a benefit they can find ways to fund the project and sustain it for years to come. (I will get to that next)

Tip 2:
You will need to find funding, grants, and donations. Each year, I have been able to find "free" money that helps support our school garden. Whether it be the Anthem Watch Us Sprout Grant which provided us this year with soil, books, hundreds of free seeds to distribute to our families and students, as well as amazing banners that we display in our lunchroom that supports healthy eating habits!

Find a local greenhouse that might be willing to donate. If you have a composting business close by, call them to see if they can give a deal to a local school garden. People LOVE the idea of kids growing and may be excited enough to donate or give a product at a reduced price!

Tip 3:
Find ways to integrate the garden into the curriculum. We have a unique situation at our school...I teach each and every student. That means over 400 students come to me for Science, STEM, Gardening. You name it...I teach it! The beauty of this model is that I then can work with each grade level to take part in gardening. (Watch for this week's series for ideas on how to grow plants with kids!)

Kindergartners plant a kinder"garden" which is pumpkins, zucchini, and gourds.
First Graders plant flowers to learn about insect pollination. Sunflowers are great to grow as well as daffodils.
Second Graders plant potatoes and then gold mine for them in fall to tie in Social Studies and the Westward Movement as well as lettuce, spinach, kale, and peas. We use the FOSS Plant unit to start us off, but then I deviate.
Third Graders plant an egg roll and coleslaw garden. We plant cabbage which is sponsored by Bonnie Plants (free cabbage plants for the annual cabbage contest. Find the Link here: http://bonniecabbageprogram.com/ ) We also plant carrots for our coleslaw and egg rolls!
Fourth Graders plant the Three Sisters Garden which ties in native american history. That includes Beans, squash, and corn.
Fifth Graders plant a victory garden as they learn about WWII. They plant kohlrabi, tomatoes, peppers, and anything else we want to stick in the ground.

I know that this may not be how your school teaches science so here are some ideas....
-each grade level can be assigned special vegetables and an area to plant them in
-someone that is interested can have a container garden that they watch and learn from
-facilitators can teach lessons, plant seeds, start them at school and send them home
-interested teachers can work together to grow a school garden, it can be part of an after school program, or even a summer school class.

Tip 4:
Just do it. I cannot tell you how many people I talk to that want to start a school garden and then just sit and wait for everything to fall in place just perfectly....nothing is ever perfect. We learned from our mistakes, changed them as we went, and continue to learn as we go!

 Your team, whoever it is that is part of your plan, can find an area for your garden, create a design, decide what to plant, figure out who waters, weeds, picks, and shares the harvest.  (In this week's series, I will share with you different ways to use your bounty!)

Tip 5:

How do you keep it growing? Summer weeding, watering, and picking and then what do you do with it? All things to think about. In the past I have tried a lot of different methods. Here are a few ideas for you...
-Americorp volunteers. They always need hours.
-United Way. If they weed and pick ...they can keep some of the harvest.
-Parent and Family volunteers. I used Remind 101 after a digital sign up link went into our school newsletter. It is sometimes hard for them to remember to I send a reminder with this app.
-I use my summer school program to tie gardening into the STEM based curriculum that I developed. We use STEM Little Red Hen to teach teamwork and hard work come first before the reward. We then weed and then eat!
-I have an underground irrigation system that I wrote a grant for...so watering is not an issue for me, however utilize your helpers, custodians, school programs that can help with this chore.

This week, I will be sharing more tips, epic fails you can learn from, as well as celebrations! I will always say...a seed is magic. You just have to get "growing" to find that out!

This pack has been worked on for over three years. I now use this pack for my kindergarten though third graders.

Here is a link to a free portion of this pack...Let's just call it a "FREEBEE"! FREE-BEE For You Found HERE!

Free"bee" Bee Activities and Science Connections
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Sustainability and The Three R's

This isn't new to us at our school...teaching about sustainability, energy, or even reducing, reusing, and recycling. We are a Green and Healthy School and with that comes some responsibilities when it comes to these concepts, but how can a classroom teacher integrate these ideas in a quick and effective way?

Reduce time in teaching these concepts by integrating a fun picture book that gets at the heart of helping the earth, conserving energy, or living a healthy life style.

Reduce time by using an activity easily found on the internet or use this freebie from my Earth Day Pack to help start you out!
                                         Grab you freebie here!

Sometimes it is nice to reuse an old lesson, but you just need a little refreshing! If you have a lesson on helping the Earth...how about save milk cartons, cut up cardboard boxes, and toilet paper rolls and now you have reusable supplies that build great towers! This is great for so many grade levels!

Teaching kids how to recycle and what to recycle is a great way to encourage a life long way to help the Earth. A fun game you can play is Separate the Trash. Bring in recyclables. Make cards labeled: glass, plastics, paper, garbage. Have teams take turns separating the trash and learning what is recyclable! You can even have them share ways to reduce or reuse items that are brought in. A great art project can stem from this activity, too!

Teaching sustainability is a great way to help kids become green and healthy.


Let's Get Growing...Five Ways To Grow With Your Students

It is that time of year at our school...garden time! We were the proud recipients of a Farm to School Grant five years ago and we are still growing strong!

This week we started planting seeds in two grade levels. So I thought I would give you some tips on how to plant seeds with your students...

 1. Have a planting station ready with soil, seeds, water, trays, and towels
2. Preteach how to plant seeds and practice this mantra:

3. While some students are planting have an activity for the others to do...I usually have them do an activity such as how to read a seed packet, how to plant a seed, or what do seeds need.

4. What they will be planted in? We do peet pots now, we have tried cups with holes in the bottom (too expensive), milk cartons (need lots of water and hard to cover with plastic to keep the water cycle doing the job), we have tried egg cartons, too (too little for my taste)

5. Where will you put the containers or we like to call them seed babies? We have grow lights...I mean huge ones, but if you don't...use the window sill or you can rig up a light source using pvc pipes and florescent grow lights found at hardware stores.

The big think is not over water, under water, have them get too leggy...okay gardening isn't an easy task, but when I see that a seed is magic and they can put their plants in the ground when it is warm enough it is worth the work to keep the babies alive!

Need some help with your plant unit? Check out this plant pack that I just finished up on!
Let's get growing together! Plant a seed...plant ideas for your students...learning to garden is a life long skill that they can take with them. Whether it be in a small cup, a container, or a garden...growing seeds can really be a great way to bring the outdoors in!


Earth Day: Planting a Seed with Three Easy Steps

Wanting to teach about Earth Day, but don't know where to get started? First, don't just jump on the bandwagon without knowing a little bit about how Earth Day came to be...

Earth Day...How did this "holiday" even get started? The book that inspired Earth Day was the Silent Spring written by Rachel Carson which dealt with the state of the environment and what was happening to our air, water, forests, and animals.  Earth Day is the  largest secular holiday which beats Valentines Day and Halloween! 

1969...the year I was born...yes I am getting up there... people were getting really upset with what we were doing to our environment from the use of  DDT which significantly impacted the Eagle population to the pollution of our water ways caused by the dumping of chemicals into our rivers, lakes, streams  from factories around the country. 

The worst oil spill of the time occurred in 1969 as well. Senator Gaylord Nelson from my state of Wisconsin started taking a look at ways we could teach others about what we were doing to our environment. Our significant impact on the Earth from population growth to climate change continues to be a problem both politically and environmentally, but how can we continue to help our future generations learn about the importance of saving our Earth, going green, recycling, growing gardens, appreciating nature...without causing other issues? 

On April 22nd, 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated.  Teach in's were used to help educate others on what impact we have on the Earth is and what the devastating impact Earth faces if we continue down this path. Grass roots levels organized to help the cause in 1970 with  over 20 million Americans celebrated Earth Day that first year!   The Environmental Protection Agency was created which  laid  the groundwork for the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act to name a few. 

How can we take what they did back in 1970 and teach our students that they can make a difference just by the choices they make? We want to help our students learn about the environment and we care about our world so that we all  can make good choices for our future! 

Here are three simple ideas:

1. Show a song or video. Then have them write about what they heard. This simple song is about 8 principles for a better world! Respecting and caring for ALL living things from trees to seeds, animals big and small...a great message!

2. Have students go outside and just take in their environment! Draw what they see. Write down what living things they can observe. Give them time to really look at their surroundings for plants and animals,  and nature!  Let them breath in the clean air. Then have them share ways to go green with each other! 

This one one of my favorite Earth Day memories! Sitting and taking it all in until you just need to share with the teacher what you saw!!!! I love her excitement as she is ready to tell me her observations!

3. Have them connect with an activity about sustainability or going green!
From STEM lessons, to sustainability concepts, or even an energy activity a hands-on science connection is a great way to get your students connecting with their environment and also become problem solvers as they tackle some of our environments biggest issues.

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Building a wind turbine can be complex or simple. Differentiating to meet your level of comfort is key. As an energy certified teacher, I made a wind turbine that can be tested after the students create their fans. You can produce wind powered cars...solar ovens, sun dials...All it takes though is planting that seed!

Taking the time to teach about Earth Day can come from a book, a video, a quick writing prompt or even a STEM project, but the important thing is that we are teaching our students to be stewards of the Earth and that EACH day can be EARTH day!  

Interested in any of the Earth Day challenges? Check out my Earth Day Resources HERE!

Let's celebrate the Earth! Stop by the Science School Yard TPT store for  an EARTH DAY FREEIBE, TOO!


Plugging Into Environmental Education

 I was asked last week about the importance of environmental education and why I spend the effort in my science classes teaching students about the outdoors.  We have an extensive farm to school garden and are recognized as a Green and Healthy School. Environmental lessons are key to helping save our planet.  My answer was simple...

Having nature based activities not only meets many of the new NGSS standards, but it engages both boys and girls in a hands-on way! Here are some other key components to why we need to add environmental education into our school week.
Sustainability Lessons and Activities
1. Connections
Environmental Education connects students to the outdoors and disconnects them from their virtual worlds that this generation of students is living in.

2. Service Learning
Service learning is defined by the National Service Learning Clearinghouse as "a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities."

Whether that be a neighborhood clean-up and recycling effort or helping a local wildlife organization with fundraising efforts students can learn the value of the needs in their community outside of their own lives.

3. Stewards of The Earth
Let's admit it...we have done a pretty good job messing up the Earth lately. Landfills are filling...we are using our fossil fuels at a rapidly growing rate...we are going to need the help of this generation to come up with some viable solutions!

Teaching our students about the outdoor world outside of their classroom walls will help to improve their understanding of the world around them. From planting a school garden, to composting...teaching  about renewable resources or taking pond samples to test the alkaline levels...it is our responsibility to help our students learn to use and protect our natural environment through conservation and sustainable lessons and modeling positive behaviors.

Aldo Leapold once said, "We abuse land because we see it as a commondity belonging to us. Wehn we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." 

              Stop back to learn more ways to include environmental education into your Science School Yard!


Let's Get Growing

It's my favorite time of year, planting season. Time to get our kinder-gardeners learning how to plant seeds so that when they are BIG first graders they can see their pumpkin patch. Sometimes it takes a long time to grow BIG.
Starting from seed and watching them grow so that we can replant them in our school garden is very exciting!

Our first graders are able to learn about insects and plant flowers so that the bees come to pollinate the vegetable flowers so that we can eat beans, cucumbers, kale, broccoli, and squash to name a few.

Here is our new improved School Garden! New benches, new  beds, new pumpkin patch!

Indoor planting and observations in our Green House!

2nd graders, with the help of their FOSS kit grow everything from beans to tomatoes, zucchini, and kohlrabi as they learn about what a plant needs, to the parts of the plant. My favorite activities include planting potatoes that they will pick as third graders "gold rush style" as well as the mystery seed for Mother's Day as they wait to see how parents pass on traits to their children...marigolds just blooming look like the adult marigold from the nursery!

3rd graders are learning about sound, but it is equally as important to get them growing, too! Next week, during Earth Week we will be learning about planting container gardens as we focus a week on living sustainably! We will also do a quick lesson on how eating vegetables "sounds" good to me when they plant their cabbage plants that are donated to our school each year. I hate to say that most of them died. They cam this year three weeks early, before spring break, and after it snowed 11 days in a row. Our grow lights didn't do them justice!

4th graders will soon plant the three sisters as they are learning about Wisconsin Native American tribes. Beans, Squash, and corn will be their specialty!
After 3 years of waiting...edible stems! Asparagus!

5th graders will get first hand lessons in World War II as I share my father-in-law's WWII memorabilia and we plant a victory garden of tomatoes, broccoli, and lettuce. We might even throw in some radish and spinach to boot!

This year, we are also lucky enough to get honey sticks for our students so that I can teach a pollination lesson to our kindergarten through fifth grade students. We will focus on pollinators for April's Harvest of the Month!

Here is our garden tip of the week...

As you teach students how to plant seeds, use these six simple words:

1. Scoop...

2. Pat...

3. Poke...

4. Drop
5. Cover....and then Water!

As the students get older I add more and more concepts to those 6 simple steps. K-2 just those words work, however as they get older we focus on how far down the seed should be placed in the soil and learning to read a seed packet!

So there is a run down of our School Garden progress! Whether you are growing in a baggie, or in a milk carton...in a container garden or a large school garden...I will always say that planting a seed is magic! It allows children to see where their food comes from and it allows them to get their hands dirty as they learn!

Here is a FREEBIE to get you growing!


What's Up Doc? Carrots!!!!

Our kindergartners are finishing up their senses activities. Why not use our school garden to teach all five senses! We used our five senses by picking carrots! We looked at the tops...then the bottoms! We felt them before and after we pulled them out of the ground. We smelled the fresh carrots and tried to describe the smell carrots have. They smell "carroty". We crunched them and they tasted sweet and yummy! I love the discoveries that were made!

1. Plant's leaves help us figure out what each plant is!
2. Even when the leaves are the same size, the carrots can be very different sizes.
3. Carrots are a root.
4. We eat the orange part and it grew under the ground.
5. We love pulling carrots out of the ground...it makes us laugh...smile...and squeal!
I love the smiles on their faces when they pull the carrots out of the ground! It's a big one!

And the winner of the biggest carrot of the day goes to these two gardeners!

We taught leaf structure...take a look at those leaves...it is a ground cherry plant. He pulled it out and looked for orange by the roots...weren't there. What a great teachable moment!

We went inside to write down our five senses reflections. How do carrots feel...smell...look...sound...taste?

Here are the carrots that they picked. After each kindergarten class is done...they will be shared in our lunchroom!

Our school garden helps each and every student grow! Here is the sheet we used to reflect on our activity! I thought I would help you plant a seed!

Carrots and Our Five Senses Freebie

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