Wednesday, July 16, 2014

4th Grade Classrooms at Winter Hill Community School pilot “Growing Skills in the Garden” Curriculum – Part I

At the beginning of June, two adventurous teachers, Charlene O’Neill and Fran Carino, welcomed Groundwork Somerville staff, Sadie Richards and Andrea Tentner, into their 4th grade science classrooms at Winter Hill Community School.   The classes test drove a 3 day pilot Farm to School Curriculum called “Growing Skills in the Garden”.  The lessons are meant to turn the garden into an exciting classroom for learning 4th grade core curriculum skills; students used multiplication, fractions, and other math skills to solve real world math problems, read books and articles to find information, used and made maps, and more.  At the same time, students got out into the garden, learned about what it takes to grow food, where their food comes from, and why you might want to grow your own food. This curriculum was developed by Andrea Tentner while working at Groundwork Somerville, and was funded by the SPS Farm to School Project USDA Planning Grant.

Andrea Tentner explain the lesson to Winter Hill students

Sadie Richards explaining garden mapping

Over the course of three days, Fran Carino’s 4th grade class planned out and planted their own raised bed in the schoolyard garden located at the school front entrance way, and Charlene O’Neill’s class planned out and planted their own raised bed in the schoolyard garden located next to the playground. 

On the first day students first shared what they already knew (a lot!), and then learned more about what plants need to grow (sunshine, water, air, soil, nutrients, the right temperature, and space and time to grow!).  Then we took a trip to the garden, measured how much space we had for planting, and decided whether our growing space had enough sun to grow sun-loving plants like peppers and tomatoes (Ms. O’Neill’s class had a very sunny spot, and Mrs. Carino’s class had a shadier spot).  Students did some weeding and preparation of their growing space, and started dreaming about all the amazing things we could plant and grow.

Taking measurements to calculate perimeter and area of the garden plot

Double and triple checking measurements!

On the second day students split into small groups to develop a plan for the garden space.  Ms. O’Neill’s class decided to make a common key for all of the maps.  For example, each group would use an orange triangle to represent a carrot on their map.  That way everyone would understand each other’s garden plan drawing right away.  Mrs. Carino’s class worked together to create a diagram the characteristics of each plant, including amount of sun needed, amount of space needed, and what kind of plants they like or don’t like to grow next to.  Because their class had a shadier spot than the other class, they used their list to choose plants that could still grow and produce food without a lot of sun.   One group in Ms. O’Neill’s class decided they wanted to plant a lot of chili peppers because they like to make their food spicy.  Another group decided to plant Italian parsley because one of their members was Italian, and another decided to plant zinnias (bright red flowers!) because they are beautiful and also because they are good “companion plants”, and attract pollinators like honey bees and butterflies to the garden. 

Creating the garden map using a common key

Check back in for Part II in this series!
Content provided by Andrea Tentner. Photos provided by Ali Silverstein.

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