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Our school has a great garden! However, I would like to utilize it more in my teaching. Has anyone created any type of lessons centered around life science in a garden?
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I haven't been to the garden, but I have been to the nature preserve, and if you wanted to you could creatively make many lessons work in that environment. If you don't mind the outdoors, its basically a "mini everglades" in our own backyard. The hike is beautiful, as well as great exercise, and educative. By the end of the tour, assuming you take it with a guide, not only do you know what a slash pine, live oak, cherry pepper, and a strangler fig is etc., but you can also tell the difference between them. I took the tour with my SCE 4310 class and I really enjoyed the hike. I do not recommend it if your not into the outdoors or moving much.
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Have you seen the resources from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center? They are great! https://www.wildflower.org/teachers/
Project Wild http://www.projectwild.org/resources.htm and National Wildlife Federation? http://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature/Educators/Teacher-Tools.aspx
Hope these help!
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I like the idea of having the students write poetry to display in the garden. You could even have them write shape poems in the forms of different flowers, plants, vegetables, fruits, and insects.
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It is nice to know that your school has a great garden! Growing up, I remember my school had a great garden too! However now a day, it is hard to find a school that has a great garden now. All we see is plain empty fields with just a few playground to keep the children occupy. One activity that the students can do is to Harvest a plant from the garden. As a lesson plan, students can learn how to properly use harvesting methods and work together to begin harvesting plants or vegetable as a class and watch their garden grow!
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A great idea I saw in a classroom I observed once was the teacher using the garden to grow different kinds of plants, and when he would plant them, he had the kids mark how deep the seeds should go and how far apart they should be from each other. The kids used their science notebooks to sketch out what the formation of the seeds should be, then he would use their sketches to come up with a mutual agreement on how the seeds should be planted. He not only used this for science, but he incorporated this into math with estimations, area, and perimeter. The kids absolutely loved it!
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How wonderful that you have a garden to use as an outdoor teaching station! All kinds of science concepts come to mind. Of course it does depend somewhat on what you grow in the garden.
I had a butterfly garden at my school for a few years. We were trying to establish a habitat for our state insect, the Monarch butterfly. In that type of garden you could discuss symbiotic relationships, life cycles of insects, habitats and ecosystems, etc.
If you spend time with your students discussing garden design and companion plants, etc. Students could design their garden layout, measure between plantings to establish optimum space requirements and then place compatible plants together. For example, beets and lettuce are considered companion plants because the beet has deep roots while the lettuce has shallow roots (therefore they do not complete for the same soil space). The beets grow taller and provide shade for the more fragile lettuce leaves that are not as tolerant of full sun.
You could grow flowering plants that produce noticeable fruits like pole beans or squash and
discuss the life cycle of a plant. This would involve teaching pollination, fertilization and plant parts and functions. You could include a flower dissection.
How about using your garden to help teach photosynthesis or the water cycle (to include
transpiration)? Or how about discussing soil pH or nitrate levels? Or perhaps you could discuss what plants require in order to survive and thrive (sunlight, water, CO2 gas from the air, nutrient from the soil, etc.
These are some ideas that are coming to mind.
Hope this helps.
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I agree that gardens are a great way to incorporate science into the classroom. I like all the different examples of how to make connections to the garden and use all year long. Another great thing about having a school garden is that it can be used many many different grade levels.
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Great ideas!! Thanks for sharing :)
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These are awesome ideas!!
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Wow! this is valuable ideas is incredible what concepts you can enhance by designing a garden. The school where I am doing my students teaching each grade has their own little space to plant and create a garden. I will share this information with my cooperative teacher.
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Hi Carolyn, thank you for sharing. You do help me to develop my new ideas over planning life science class.
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I have developed a number of lessons for use in the schoolyard. Here's some from my Learning Center public collection, including a free chapter from my NSTA Press book, Outdoor Science: A Practical Guide. Enjoy, and give me feedback!
Your text to link here...
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I just add to my library, How Clean is the River and Birds, Bugs and Butterflies Science Lesson for your outdoor classroom. I tried to open your word lesson plan but I couldn't there is another was I can have access to it? Thank you!!
Thank Steve! These lessons will come in handy when I start my first student-teaching!
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Hi Stacia and others,
Here is a collection of items from the Learning Center of Backyard Habitats.
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Thank you for sharing.
Hello, Patricia Rourke, thank you for sharing the resources!
Lavender Rui Qin
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a collection on butterflies
Thank you so much for sharing this wealth of information Patricia!
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using birds as a gateway to science inquiry
a collection of resources from the Learning Center on school gardens
Wow! This is great information. I really appreciate you sharing this with everyone. Especially for those of us that are new to teaching!! This will come in handy to help integrate new ideas for fun activities.
Having students write poetry that could later be displayed throughout the garden would be a great cross-curricular activity. They would use their knowledge of imagery, personification etc. and write poems related to insects, pollination, ecology, and/or plants.
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That sounds like a great idea. I like integrating subjects with other subjects.
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I love this idea! I think it would make poetry be less abstract and more achievable for kids!
Angeles Rivero Loyola
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Great idea Harvey! Poetry can be a powerful tool for young children. My teacher loves to incorporate poetry in his class.
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I really like this! I need to do an integrated lesson for my methods class and I think I am going to do this. It is authentic and fun but at the same time it has a purpose and it is connected to my TEKS and objective.
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Definitely. I agree.
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I wish the elementary school I was observing had a garden. I think it's very beneficial for the kids. Last semester when I was observing another school they had a after school garden club and the kids loved planting and learning about plants.
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Yes, I agree. Children love gardening and nature . Plus, it is a hands-on experience.
Here is a wonderful lesson that has the students learning about diffrent kinds and structures of leaves. Thomas Young is the teacher who gets all of the credit for this lesson. The link can also give you other life science lesson he has to offer. Just in case the link does not work, here it is:
Today your students will look at the leaves of a plant. They will learn about the types of leaf structures and the names of the parts that make up the leaf.
[b][u]Setting the stage:[/u][/b]
The students start by watching a video about simple and compound leaves. They then go on a hunt to find examples of each. The class will then sort them into the two categories. The lesson will end with a in depth talk about the components of a leaf.
Our district expects students to understand that a plant is a system that goes through a natural cycle and the parts help the plant survive and reproduce. By focusing on the parts and needs of a plant, I can teach them how the parts have a role that helps a plant get the things it needs to survive. The unit will end with the class spending 4 days int eh school garden and applying their learned knowledge to the work being done in the garden.
[td][b]Students demonstrate their understanding of Reproduction by…[/b]
[li]Drawing and labeling the stages of development in the life of a familiar plant.[/li]
The students gather on the carpet and face the Smart board. I introduce the "leaf" and have them watch a video that introduces the simple and compound leaf.
"We are going to study another plant part today. It is the leaf. There are two classifications of leaves. There is a simple leaf and a compound leaf. I want to start by having you watch this quick [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHzlUjeZIQI]video[/url] about the two types."
Once the video is over, I want to reiterate the terms compound and simple leaves. The reason being is that the students will use the explore section to go out and find examples of each type.
The students now head outside to find examples of each type of leaf. They are asked to find two examples of compound leaves and two examples of a simple leaf. They will use these in the discussion part of the lesson.
[i]"Now I want you to go outside and find four different leaves. You will work with your science partner to find two compound leaves and two simple leaves. You can bring a pair of scissors and a bag for collecting your leaves."[/i]
[i]"Once you are done collecting, we will meet back in the classroom for a science circle discussion."[/i]
I take the students to the playground. Our playground has many trees and a field where a variety of leaves can be found.
I gather the students back on the carpet and have them bring their leaves and science notebooks. I lead a discussion about the leaves they collected and we sort all of them as a class.
[i][b]"I am going to make a [url=http://betterlesson.com/lesson/resource/3245220/t-table]t-table[/url] on this piece of chart paper. One side will be labeled compound leaves and the other will be labeled simple leaves. I would like you to place your leaves in the appropriate side of the table. Please don't lay your leaves on another group's leaves. This way everyone can see all of the leaves in each category."[/b][/i]
I give the students a few minutes to do this and then call their attention the the [url=http://betterlesson.com/lesson/resource/3245222/placing-leaves-in-categories]completed[/url] table.
[b][i]"I would like you and your partner to look at how the leaves have been sorted. Do you think that each leaf is in the right category. I want you to discuss your thoughts with your partner. Be ready to share your thoughts but also be able to explain your reasoning."[/i][/b]
By having the students explain their reasoning, I am able to to tell if they understand the difference between the two. Even if the class sorts them all correctly, the students will have to explain why they are sorted in the appropriate categories.
[i][b]"I would like you to take out your science notebooks and set it up for today's entry. Our focus today is what (leaves)? I would like you to create the same [url=http://betterlesson.com/lesson/resource/3245219/sorting-leaves-in-notebook]t-table[/url] that we created here and then draw three of the leaves from each category. You can use colored pencils to enhance your drawings."[/b][/i]
Advanced Preparation: You will need a copy of the science [url=http://betterlesson.com/lesson/resource/3245224/leaf-handout]handout[/url] [i]Leaves. I have taken a picture of this resource because I don;t have permission to include it as a printable black-line master. [/i]
[b][i]"I want to explore the str
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I love this lesson. I love that the students get to go outside and interact with nature to achieve the lesson's content. I think physicallly handling the leaves will help the students understand the content much better than if they were to just look at pictures or solely a video.
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Great lesson, Kate!
Thank you for this resource!
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Awesome! Thank you for sharing!
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Appreciate the lesson!
I was able to observe the nature preserve at my university FIU and learn about how important it is for students to learn through inquiry activities. I was able to do an exploration with my previous Science class in which we placed some food traps in different soil atmospheres. We them observed the different types of ants, and the quantity in each of the atmospheres. It was a fun and interesting activity. I believe you could do this in schools as well. It might just have to be rethought to testing whether shade affects ant populations etc, since there isn't that big of a variety in soil.
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I am currently taking a methods of science course and I am learning a great deal about Inquiry based lessons.
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Possibly having students do a nature walk and teaching them a lesson on plant survival. Hope this helps!
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The elementary school that I am at has an amazing garden. However I do not feel it is used to its potential. I would love to see more of an integration between all subjects-something along the lines of how we consume/produce food and the plant life cycle. Any suggestions?
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Garden activities are so great! Recently, my peers and I have been discussing how gardens would be a great vehicle to use in educating kids about healthy food. It is amazing, as well as appalling how little young children know about different types of vegetables and fruits or where they come from. Garden activities concerning food and health or the plant life cycle would be great.
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THank you for sharing these awesome garden activities, I can't wait to try some out!
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The school I am at has a garden and it is a great space. Unfortunately, it is not utilized and often forgotten about. The one time I visited the garden was for the kids to look at it and use the different rows to form math problems. This is such a missed opportunity to teach a school full of over weight children where food comes from, how to grow it, how to harvest it, and how to prepare it. Beyond that it can teach them community, economics, chemistry and so much more!!! Gardens in schools should be mandatory! I cannot imagine even one logical or valid reason to not having a flourishing garden at school.
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I feel like we have a similar situation at my school. There is such a pull to stick to our district-provided curriculum that there seems to be little time for gardening. Still, I see great potential for learning. We just recently got a grant and installed a butterfly garden. Students and the community worked together to make it happen. It was a very satisfying and successful experience. Now, I'm determined to make sure that we are not "finished" with this project. I want very much to get my science committee involved in finding ways to use the garden in our grade levels' curriculum. We've been provided with curriculum from the National Wildlife Federation, so I'm confident it is possible - if we can find the will and the time to make it happen.
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How exciting! How could you incorporate gardening activities for your science lessons on a low budget or with limited outside space? How do schools in large cities use this?
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[color=#0e0e0e][size=3][font=Verdana]Growing up in Latin America in a very urban area, we were still able to have gardening, plant, and ecosystem lessons even with fewer resources than a typical classroom in the United States. [/font][/size][/color]
[color=#0e0e0e][size=3][font=Verdana]An activity that I remember doing when I was in 1st grade, which can be built upon and made more complex, is growing a bean in a plastic cup with the cotton as the "soil." For elementary school children, it introduces the concept of plant growth as an iterative process that as time progresses, the organism that arises is ever more sophisticated. It also shows how water is critical to growth of all organisms, as if a student forgets to water their plant, it will wither or grow not as quickly as others'. This can then be tied to our own bodies, by asking students what happens when they do not drink water for a long time and explaining that like plants, we need water to live.[/font][/size][/color]
[color=#0e0e0e][size=3][font=Verdana]In middle school, the concept of photosynthesis can be added to this activity by varying the amount of light that reaches the beans. Students can formulate hypotheses on what they believe will happen when plants receive varying amounts of light and set up their corresponding experiments. This will also beautifully tie in the scientific method. Depending on the classroom culture, socio-economic implications can arise in at this stage as well. Students will notice that in the most general sense possible, plants to photosynthesize require relatively high intensity and frequent light exposure. As a result, plants need a combination of high water and light inputs, causing irrigation systems in very hot and arid places such as Arizona to exist in order to maximize food production. This often implies that water is diverted from other uses, and who makes these decisions and who benefits and who is placed at a disadvantage is a deeply contentious issue. Evolution can be brought into the lesson by mentioning that some plants can be adapted to live in more extreme conditions, such as the cacti.[/font][/size][/color]
[color=#0e0e0e][size=3][font=Verdana]At the high school level, plant development can be incorporated upon all the previous layers aforementioned. After a plant physiology lesson, students can appreciate how the cotyledons form, and as the bean is a eudicot, two seed leaves emerge from the seed. Likewise, students can notice how due to the suppression of auxin by sunlight, the plant grows towards the light as the portion less exposed to light grows faster than the more sun-exposed side. [/font][/size][/color]
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I know that one teacher on our team uses the garden to show the children how everything is connected. The birds stop by the bird bath and may eat some insects, the caterpillars use the leaves on the plants to begin the transformation to a butterfly and so on.
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The students, can take a walk through the garden and write and draw pictures of plants they observe in their science journals. Also the students can observe different animals that they see as well. Another activity that could be done, is a lesson on the life cycle of a plant.
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I think it's even more important to teach students about climate change and just get them to play outside! It is important to establish appreciation for their food and surroundings so that when they grown up they'll be conscious of all the environmental issues. I hope you get to utilize the garden a lot!
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In some of the classrooms I have been in we have tied poetry lessons into gardens and created sensory poems. Also we took a nature walk through the garden and did science observations. Also the students created models of how the garden and animals around the area were both beneficial for each other. Another lesson that could be done is the importance of gardens to our environment and also gardens can be related to health (food) topics. There are so many benefits of having a garden in the school yard and then creating topics that align! Students love creating gardens because they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility to take care of it. Also it is fun for the students to go out and observe the changes of their garden over time.
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In classrooms I have been at I have seen teachers teach about life cycles starting with a seed and then moving on to other life cycles of animals and so on. Sensory poems or shape poems can be a fun and interesting lesson to connect. Having students make observations on what they see can be a great activity to do. Having students make connections between plants, animals, and people so they can learn that we all need certain things to live. Gardens are a great thing to have in a school. Students can take time to just sit and enjoy nature as well as learn from it. Gardens give students a sense of responsibility because they want their garden to grow. The school I am currently in has a garden that the third graders take care of and I have worked with them a couple of times. I would definitely like to get my first graders involved because there are so many things they can learn from it. Just connecting it to poems, making observations, having them take ownership and responsibility. Giving them the opportunity to grow and start a life. Garden create endless opportunities for students.
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The school I'm student teaching at just created a wonderful garden this past year. I think it would be awesome for your students to experiment in the garden. They could create a hypotheses based on their studies of soil. Even as an adult, I was surprised about the complexity of soil and its impact on plant life (especially how wonderful worms can be!) I know fast plants are great to work with in a short period of time.
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Some of my student teaching revolved around the gardens in the various schools I was in! We made interactive notebooks where students could make observations, take notes, write questions, etc. I think the interactive notebook was very beneficial because all of the information was in a single location. The notebooks allowed the students to really work alone and enjoy a more inquiry based lesson!
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I think there are many things you can do to add cross curricular activities throughout your class with the garden. Depending on the grade you work with, you could have writing pieces with the garden. The writing could be as simple as words to explain observations once a week to a detailed explanation with predictions and how to take care of plants. You could do cooking activities with what you create and incorporate math and fractions to that.
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For my Science Methods course, which is part of my Early Childhood Education license, we have worked with learning gardens at multiple different schools (and with multiple different grade levels). At any grade level, the direct observations the students make of their gardens never fail to serve as fantastic venues for scientific discussion and exploration. From garden components and environmental influences to the minute details of the vast processes of life you can find in a garden, the possibilities of garden-based learning activities are literally endless. For example, at a kindergarten, twenty-one different teacher candidates came up with twenty-one completely different lessons for their students.
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Garden activities can involve playing games like sack race, Treasure hunt etc or you can do gardening.
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I like the idea of using a garden to write stories or poetry.
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I recently did a science lesson with a first grade class and I used the school garden to introduce the topic of parts of a plant. There were many weeds and plants that weren't necessarily part of the garden, so I had the students pick one and pull it out of the ground completely. I did this so that the students were able to observe a whole plant and identify the four major parts. I then had the students draw their plant in their science notebooks, labeling all four parts. It worked out great and the students really enjoyed picking the plants out themselves! It got them involved and engaged in the lesson.
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I have observe some classes that they do gardening all of the time. They also do activities outside. I think the students were looking at insects around the garden and after they would learn about different parts. Also looking at temperature or you could do life cycle or things a plant needs like natural resources.
Virginia E Lopez
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You can do activities such as life cycle of flowers. My school has a garden too, and we have gone outside to observe the flowers and to name their parts. I guess it all depends on what grade level.
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This may be far fetched for some schools and grade levels, but my students maintain a classroom garden that consist of herbs. This is a great opportunity to introduce a lesson on agriculture. After the herbs have sprouted and ready to harvest, we use them in a chosen food dish. The students love the idea of growing and consuming their food.
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A garden is a great opportunity for kids to learn where our food comes from, plant life, insects and even as creative inspiration for art or writing. Our school doesn't have a garden right now but I'm hopeful that eventually we will and the kids will be able to see the process the plant goes through to produce it's fruit.
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Great discussion. You can always do DNA extraction and analysis.
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Disney created a great video on pollination that would make a great addition to this topic. http://nature.disney.com/wings-of-life
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Angela, thank you so much for sharing the website. Since I am studying for Early Childhood Education, the children must be enjoying science with Disney!
Stacia and everyone,
It is wonderful that this discussion thread was started in 2014 and there continues to be much interest. I am working part-time at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and one of the programs we provide for schools is a "Wonder of Worms" field trip. Using your garden facilities or any outdoor area near your school to go outdoors and observe worms in their natural habitats would be another great way to use your school garden. If anyone is interested in what kinds of engaging activities we have our students do with worms, just ask :-)
Great question! I have observed a lesson in which the students sprouted a plant in the classroom in their own little pot with dirt and a bulb in it, and then once it was large enough, they all went outside and planted it in the community garden at the school. It was a great way to see the students take ownership over their learning as well as inform them about how plants grow.
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There are so many life science lessons you could weave into garden lessons. You could talk about the role of decomposers in the soil, providing food for the producers (plants), which provide food for the consumers (humans/other animals). If you also have a compost, you could also go more in depth into the decomposition part and allow students to view soil samples under a microscope. You can also talk about pollination and the vulnerability of bee populations in recent years. You could teach photosynthesis and allow students to view leaves under a microscope. You could also simply teach botany (which taxonomic groups are represented in the garden and parts of the plant). And then of course allowing the kids to taste from the garden is sure to capture their attention. Best of luck!
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As a garden lover myself, I think there are so many ways you can incorporate it into any subject's lesson. Like someone mentioned above you can incorporate it into reading and writing. You can bring out the book called "Planting A Rainbow" and read it to them. Or you could have them write a poem about what they see in the garden. The reading and writing options are endless. You could use the garden to teach a variety of science lessons such as: parts of a flower including pollination, the water cycle, states of matter and so much more! You could incorporate math into it as well by having students look at the shapes of the petals, measure the area of the garden, calculate cost of plant seeds and then pose a situation in which students have to see the profit they will make if each plant reeps a certain amount of tomatoes giving the cost of each tomato. And then you can get the students to learn how to grow a garden and bring the crop to the families at an end of the picnic or cookout. It is something students could be really proud about!!!
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Hi. You can teach your lessons by doing some games in the garden with students. For example, you are going to teach plants in the next class. You can take some pictures about different plants or flowers in the garden before the class. Then, you divide your students into different group and each group has different pictures. They should find the plants in the garden and take a photo with those plants. This is a good game which can abstract students' interests in plants.[/ol]
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I love the Project Wild activities! I have the book and it contains a lot of great activities that bring the outside, indoors.
I had no ideas that they had a resource page online, I will definitely be checking it out.
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I really like the idea of a garden at a school, my school does not have one but my friends school does. She says that the students get to help plant and grow things (flowers, fruits, vegetables) and see how long it takes for them to grow. They track the time it takes, record what they have to use to make it grow etc. I think this type of hands on learning is way better than worksheets in a classroom during that lesson. No matter how hard you try, there is no substitute for hands on learning .
I hope you find some great lesson plans!
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From my own perspective, a garden is a great place to teach learners (especially the younger learners) of environmental learning. Our university has a mini garden which belongs to one of the students' organizations as well as the science department. We, as college students, also learned a lot from club meeting every week in the garden, we grow a bunch of different vegetables, fruit, and flowers. When it ready to harvest, we pick some of the vegetables to the people who really need food in the community or even food bank.
Therefore, the kids will not only learn the life science from the garden but also the open-heart, warmness among human.
Here is my collection of life science, it also includes some examples of environmental learning.
XIN YAN QIU
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In my art class, we had to create a STEAM project. I had never done this before so I struggled a little bit at first. This is what I came up with, it may help a bit. Students were to each plant a seed in the "classroom garden" located near the window (if you have an actual garden that's even better!!).
- Science - students learned the parts of a flower, they were given a picture and asked to label all the different parts.
- Technology - we would create a blog where we would write about the growth of our gardens and we would post pictures of the progress it was making.
- Engineering - students made a flower out of paper-mache.
- Art - during this portion students were able to paint their flowers and decorate them however they liked.
- Math - students would have to measure the growth of thier flower about twice a week and log into their journals, once the plant was fully grown students will have to figure out on average how many inches their plant grew each week.
Hope this helped!!
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I have used a garden before to teach about how plants get their food! you can have students plant their own plant in the garden or you yourself plant a small one and take the students everyday to see how the plants grows. you can then explain to them how they grow and what they need to grow and then explain to them what plants eat and how they get their food.
Hope this helps!!
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It's so awesome that you have a garden in your school. You can do so much with it. I have a idea you might like....
In one of my classes at the university, we learned about germinating Lima beans to teach students. This lesson entailed using a damp paper towel, and setting 3 Lima beans inside a ziplock blag and placing them on top of a the damp towel. No later than a week, the plant had grown so much. It was really neat. Our professor fist showed us a YouTube about an actual time laps from seed to plant. The students can each do their on and just plant the beans in the garden when the plant is big enough.
This was a really neat project.
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This is the Youtube video:
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When I was working in preschool and taught kindergarten we made our own class garden.We planned a day that each child would bring in plants, flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables to plant. Every day during recess we would go out and check our garden and clean, water it and update the soil if we needed too. The children loved being apart of taking care of something. It was also rewarding to the children to see what they planted grow. Some students fruits or vegetables would grow so we would add more seeds to try again. At the end, we would pick out the herbs, fruits, and vegetables that grew and allow the students to take it home.
you can then explain to them how they grow and what they need to grow and then explain to them what plants eat and how they get their food. Hope this helps!!
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I think it's wonderful that your school has a garden for you to utilize and incorporate into your lessons. I think that you can have students observe similarities and differences in plants in the garden. The students can make charts and graphs to monitor growth etc. Students can also have discussions on how they think the garden is beneficial or detrimental to people in the school or to the area. If you see any insects or birds or other animals, you can even incorporate a lesson about the food web, or basic needs. The garden is a great way for you to be creative and teach the students science through observation, so take advantage of their creativity as well as yours!
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I agree that gardening is great for incorporating into science lessons! I remember when I was in elementary we had a garden that we would observe butterflies in. We would take notes every day about observations we had made and we were eventually able to draw the lifecycle of a butterfly. This was much more meaningful to me than looking at the lifecycle in a textbook.
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I think having a garden center for students is a great idea! I would love if my kid's school had this as an option.
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There are so many nice additions to this post, ranging from helping the students learn about plans, their different parts, food, health, birds and other creatures while working hands on in a garden and connecting it to life science for them to experience it beforehand. As Lindsey mentioned it would be great if all children were able to have that opportunity. I wonder if a small indoor garden would be able to provide a similar experience.
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I found this interesting lesson plan about the plant-soil relationship. Students would be able to observe the soil and plants in the garden, as well as any nature surrounding the area to make observations. I really like this lesson plan, because it covers environmental relationships, why plants are important, and can incorporate history as an extension activity.
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