Monday, January 26, 2015

First grade farm to school curriculum

Last fall was a very busy time for the Somerville Farm to School Project. We conducted sensory taste tests, apple tastings in our cafeterias, garlic planting days, special events like Food Day, and farm to school in class lessons. In fact, we were so busy that we are just finding time to post about some of our Fall 2014 activities! We hope the next few posts inspire you to think about warmer weather and working in the garden - spring is only 2 months away!

In October and November of last year, first graders at the Argenziano School participated in a 6 week pilot farm to school curriculum. These lessons will be available to all first grade teachers in the Somerville school district as one of our farm to school curriculum kits.

Working with the first grade teachers, we developed a science based curriculum that uses content literacy skills, cooking demonstrations and science experiments to teach students about plant parts and what they need to grow. These lessons were adapted from Project Bread and Growing Minds curricula.

Day 1 - A visit to the garden

On the first day we took a quick trip out the Argenziano school garden. Using a A Farmer's Alphabet by Mary Azarian as inspiration, students were assigned a letter of the alphabet and asked to draw and describe their garden observations. They could choose either a noun, as in "T"omatoes, "E"ggplant, "K"ale or "Z"ucchini, or an adjective such as "J"umping spiders and "U"nderground roots.

Tomatoes are red and juicy.
The jumping spider is jumping from plant to plant.

Underground roots help the plants grow.
For examples of the books please follow these links:
Mrs. Campos, Letters A to K and L to Z
Ms. Sousa, Letters A to M and N to Z
Mrs. Holtzman, Alphabet book
Days 2: Planting seeds
On the second day we introduced plant parts and each student had a chance to plant a seed of his own. In one class we planted sunflowers, beans, cucumbers and zinnias. We labeled the containers with the seed name instead of the student name - this was REALLY difficult for the students to accept. But we explained that it was more important to know the TYPE of seed than WHO planted the seed.
Sprouting sunflowers

Little seedlings side by side
The students observed their seeds everyday, hoping they would sprout sooner rather than later. In some classrooms, it only took a few days for them to germinate! Other classrooms had to wait almost a full week!
Days 3 and 4: Cooking demonstrations and taste tests
Students were treated to a taste test of Hummus with Veggies and Moroccan Carrot Salad (recipe from Project Bread), while we continued our discussion of plant parts and their functions. We made both the hummus and the salad in front of the students so that we could talk about the ingredients and the different plant parts that we eat.

Hummus and veggies
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Do you like it? Would you eat it again?
Three out of the four first grades participated in a sensory taste test with the hummus and veggies.  We call it a success that over half (fifty-six percent) of the those surveyed would eat the hummus again!

For the carrot salad, we randomly selected one first grade to take the sensory test. Results from the carrot salad taste test will be included in an upcoming post.
Days 5 and 6: Pumpkin seed counting and wrap up 
On Day 5 we started the lesson with How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara. Then small groups of students scooped the seeds from small pumpkins and separated them from the fibrous pumpkin strands. That was a tough job that left the students with slimy, sticky hands. But we think they enjoyed it!
Scooping seeds

Twos, fives or tens!
Using a toaster oven we dried each set of seeds and returned the following week for students to count their seeds. With How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? as inspiration we discussed how to count larger numbers of items - by twos, fives or tens. Each group chose a method and got to work counting. In the end, we learned that larger pumpkins don't necessarily have more seeds.
Content and photos provided by Karyn Novakowski, Farm to School Project Director.


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