Monday, August 4, 2014

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

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.

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. 

Learn what happened on the 1st and 2nd day of “Growing Skills in the Garden” in a previous post!

Learn what happened on the 3rd day of “Growing Skills in the Garden” below!

To come up with the final garden plan, the classes really had to consider not only what kind of plants they wanted to plant, but also how much space each of those plants would need, and how many would fit in the growing space which they had measured on the first day.  In her own classroom, Ms. O’Neill tackled this problem by using the square tiles on her classroom floor.  She asked students to lay down masking tape in the dimensions of their growing space (4ft x 8ft), where each square tile was a square foot.  Then she passed out several notecards to each small group and asked them to put three things on each card:  write the name of a plant they wanted in the garden, draw the symbol we’d agreed on to represent that plant for the key at the beginning of class, and write how much space it needs.  We gathered around the taped off “garden” on the classroom floor and took turns placing cards in each square foot of the garden until it was full, checking the math and converting between inches and feet along the way, to make sure that if carrot seeds should be planted 2 inches apart, then we would plan to plant 6 carrot seeds in a single square foot.  Both classes ended up with a great garden map plan for the next day!   

Placing cards in each square foot.

The square foot garden!
On the third day, students planted in the garden!  Because we’d done all the hard work of planning out where everything would go the day before, all that was left was the fun of digging, placing our seeds and seedlings, and settling them into their new homes with a good layer and pat of dirt.  We talked about how important it is to dig into and loosen the soil before planting so that the plant roots can grow and get enough air and water. 

Carefully gathering the soil around the seedlings.

Everyone got a chance to plant, and we all learned how to loosen and remove the root balls of seedlings from the containers they were grown in, and how deep to dig to place a seedling or a seed.  While planting we also dug up some big, fat earthworms from the dirt in the garden!  A lot of the students thought the worms were gross at first.  We talked about how good earthworms are for the garden:  they eat the soil and pass it through themselves to make it finer and looser, so that the roots of plants can more easily get the air, water, and nutrients they need to grow.  In the end, almost everyone wanted a chance to see and gently touch the worms!       

Planting basil in the herb beds.
Zucchini and cucumbers!
Ms. O’Neill’s class planted sun-loving plants like hot peppers, bell peppers, eggplant and okra in their sunny spot, along with some beautiful (and edible) zinnia and nasturtium flowers, chard, carrots and parsley – check it out next time you’re at the playground!


Mrs. Carino’s class planted shade-tolerant plants like chard and spinach in their shady spot, along with some carrots and basil – check it out next time you’re at the school’s front entrance!

All the seedlings planted and labeled!
UPDATE: While not every plant made it, the garden is thriving and we have harvested lettuce, squash, basil, zinnias and chard. Tomatoes and eggplant are almost ready!

It's a jungle out there!

This red zinnia brings bees and other pollinators to the garden.

A fairy tale eggplant that is almost large enough to pick!
Content provided by Andrea Tentner. Photos provided by Ali Silverstein and Karyn Novakowski.


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