Learning WITH Your Students

We were very fortunate with our new school building to have a garden bed built for every grade. Integrating gardening into the curriculum would be one strand through which children would learn about sustainability. There was one small problem though: I didn’t know very much about gardening. So, when the year began, I promised my students that I would write a reflection on my blog for every journal entry they wrote. Seattle’s winter has been pretty miserable, so it’s been a while since we observed or wrote anything.

We learned about growing plants and food in many ways. We read non-fiction and fiction (I have a new appreciation for The Secret Garden), did some actual gardening, planted trees in a local park for our all-school service day, and most importantly learned from others. (One of our teachers is a master gardener, and we are lucky enough that she is also a school neighbor allowing us, not only the opportunity to learn from someone passionate about gardening, but also having  classes visit her own personal garden many times a year.) Just last week, we were in her garden measuring the perimeter of various beds with non-standard units of the children’s own feet. This led to a great discussion about standard and non-standard units for measurement.

We learned about the worm bins and compost bins (our fifth graders collect the compost from the classes once a week and add them to the bins). We also learned how to fertilize the soil using cover crops such as vetch and clover. Then, just before spring break, the two second grade classes planted some flowers, radishes, and a host of lettuce greens. This week, we took some time to observe our garden bed, think about all the garden related activities we did, and then write a journal entry. Next week, we should be ready to taste a few things.

I keep telling my students that learning never ends. I always learn from them as they have so much to teach, but to also have the opportunity to learn with them, is pretty special.


2 thoughts on “Learning WITH Your Students

  1. I would like to think I am always learning from my students since I try to foster an environment where it is safe to contribute new and different conceptual thinking. But you are correct it is awesome when I can learn with them. Just yesterday I used the school gardens and compost bin in our lesson about measurement. This happened basically because I had mentioned at lunch that we were going to review temperature next in fourth grade. Marilyn responded with the suggestion that I measure the temperature of the compost bin. So I quickly adapted the rather dry lesson that the team had planned earlier in the week to add a “field trip” to the school garden area. When the kids heard about the addition they added to the already high level of excitement in the room (4 days left in year excitement). So off we went with me not really knowing much about compost or what we would find when we plunged the temperature probe (borrowed from Science teacher) into the organic mix. We made some predictions and then after maybe five minutes of the probe reading the temperature realized we do not have a very hot compost bin (only got up to 85 degrees). We also took readings of the dirt in the 4th grade garden which was 20 degrees cooler. So I think the kids came away learning more about reading a thermometer than they would have had we just stuck with the book and a discussion. Plus I learned more about compost than I had known before the lesson and now can say I participated in our school’s sustainability efforts.

  2. YAY! Authentic learning with kid input. I love it! Thanks for leaving the comment, Steve. And yes, the excitement of the bitter-sweetness of our final week is mounting.

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