In December of 2017 I was told that I was a recipient of an ieSonoma Innovative Educator Grant. One project that made a HUGE difference in my Special Day Class 7th grade Science classes was the installation of a garden outside of my classroom. There were gardens there previously but not for growing food. My classes made 3 raised beds with the help of Roots to Branches .
Zach came in and led us in a great discussion of the basics of gardening. How to bring a plant from seed to seedling to food. He came and built garden boxes with our Cook MS Mustangs in just a few hours! Amazing. Then 4 cubic feet of soil was donated by Wheeler Zamaroni Stone fabrication and Landscape Supplies.
The kids dug, and toted and lifted, and dumped until there were blisters and sore limbs. They filled those 3 boxes in a great collaborative effort. Mind you, a good number of these kids have a real hard time in an academic classroom. Many get in trouble because they just don’t want to sit still at a desk ALL DAY EVERYDAY! Who can blame them?! No laziness here! All were engaged and enjoyed there collective tasks.
Then, the science! Plant Cells and cheek cells under microscopes. We built animal cells out of plaster and paint while we learned about the functions and names of the cell organelles.
We drew the plant system. We watched gardeners tell us how to grow starters seedlings. We learned about hardening off the plants. And eventually we planted our seedling we grew indoors and they have been delicious!! Carrots, Peas, strawberries, lettuce, rosemary, onions, corn, and flowers! Thanks to Growbiz on 3rd st. in Santa Rosa, CA. They hooked us up with starter trays, heating mats, a grow light, and temperature monitor. We ran experiments on heat, no heat, lower/ higher heat. More/ less fertilizer, etc.
We even took soil samples and tested levels of Phosophorus, Potash, Nitrogen, and the PH balance. Litmus paper has nothing on soil samples!! We used litmus paper too! AND at the end I tested the kids and low and behold they could tell me the process we went through to grow our plant life, the cells and parts of the cells, how the different nutrients affected parts of the functions of the cells.
Guess what!? Our non garden non hands-on time with books and workbooks yielded less positive retention of material. And the best part these junk food loving kids said MMM!! These carrots are really good! Sweet! Hey I like peas! At least these, I like. Is it innovative to have kids actually DO something in class? I hope not. Look the results!
We even found a boat shaped box and filled that with life too!! My art class helped out with the beautification of our boat planter.
OH and don’t let me forget these two crafty ladies who said, “We’re putting this thing together!” and stayed through lunch to finish it! Our composter.