Friday, April 30, 2010

May School Garden Ideas

It's the beginning of May, which means its time for Monthly School Garden Ideas.  At the beginning of each month, the Got Dirt? WI blog features a variety of month-specific ways to incorporate your school garden into your classroom.

Here are just a few ideas for the month of May.  Enjoy! And share your suggestions below.

  • May: National Salad Month--Celebrate salads and fruits and vegetables.  Highlight a new fruit and vegetable each week.  Have students research the origins of fruits and vegetables.  Enjoy a salad with fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • May: National Hamburger Month--In a unique spin to this monthly celebration, teach students that all of our food comes from soil and the Earth.  Break down the elements of the a hamburger and trace them to the soil.  (Example: Hamburger>Beef>Cow>Grass>Soil; or Bun: Flour>Wheat>Soil).  Listen to the song "Dirt Made My Lunch."

  • May 2-8: National Postcard Week: Find a school garden in another state and exchange postcards.  Tell each other about your garden and what you are planting.

  • May 2-8: Teacher Appreciation Week: Thank you teachers for everything you do! Thank you for starting school gardens and changing the lives of your students!

  • May 4: Bird Day--Make birdhouses or birdfeeders for your garden.  Talk about the types of birds that will visit your garden.

  • May 4: National Weather Observers' Day--What is the weather like in your garden?  Draw a picture!

  • May 7: National Family Child Care Provider's Day: Thank you child care providers for everything you do! Thank you for starting school gardens and for changing the lives of your children!

  • May 9: Mother's Day: Celebrate mom! Invite her to your garden.  Decorate a container and plant mom's favorite fruit or veggie. 

  • May 20: Pick Strawberries Day--Although it may be a bit early to pick strawberries in Wisconsin, you can still have a strawberry-themed day.  Have students wear red, eat strawberries for a snack, make strawberry smoothies, draw pictures of strawberries, or read a book about strawberries.

  • May 23-30: National Backyard Games Week: Play games in your garden! Do a relay race, go on a scavenger hunt, or simply enjoy being in your garden!

What school garden activities do you have planned for May?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Great School Garden Resource

While searching the web for school garden resources, I stumbled upon Florida Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction's website.  Not only does Florida's Board of Education support school gardens but they have a fabulous list of resources for educators.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I encourage you to check out their website for inspiration.

In particular, I loved the page about lesson plans.  One of my favorite ideas--the "Mix-A-Salad" Game--was in the "Team Nutrition Fruits and Vegetables Lesson Plans for Preschool Children."
  1. Children stand in a circle to form a pretend bowl.
  2. Each child is given a picture of a fruit or vegetable.
  3. The leader says "I'm going to make a salad...and in my salad I am going to have _________ (name of a fruit or vegetable) that is _________ (say an action). 
    • Suggested actions include:
      • Twirling
      • Jumping
      • Running
      • Hopping
      • Waving
      • Flying
      • Dancing
      • Clapping
      • Kicking
      • Rolling their arms
      • Walking on tip-toes
      • Splashing
  4. After 3-4 fruits and vegetables are called, the leader says "Let's stir up the salad!" Then all those in the center scramble around, and all those forming the bowl make stirring motions until the leader says, "Stop! Let's eat."
  5. All the children fall down, rub their tummies, and say "Yum, that was a good salad!" 
  6. Play again calling different fruits or vegetables to the salad bowl.
What a fun and wonderful activity!

Thanks Florida Board of Education for the great resources and for your support of school gardens!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Field Trips and Local Produce

So you've planted your school garden and you're waiting for your fruits ands veggies to grow...what to do now? 

This is the perfect time to take your students on a field trip to a local garden, farm, or nature center.  Check out the following websites for field trip ideas near you. 
The Farm Fresh Atlas is another great resource for inspiration for a field trip or to find local produce to use in your classroom.  Check out their website for a farm or retailer near you!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Grant: NEA's Green Across America

NEA Member Benefits and Target have joined forces to offer $50,000 worth of grants to help K-12 schools go green.

As their website explains, "NEA’s Green Across America grants of up to $1,000 are available to help you implement your innovative education program, activity, lesson or event to excite students about going green, caring for the earth and creating a sustainable future."

This is the perfect opportunity to secure funding for your school garden project!  To further help your school become green and sustainable, you can even incorporate a compost pile into your garden.

The formal grant applications will be available May 1st but the NEA Member Benefit's website features a sample worksheet to help you plan your program in the meantime.

So put on those thinking caps and start planning your project today!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dear Gardening Friends: Letters from Students

Who says that gardens don't have an impact on students?  Check out these adorable letters I received from a class that just planted a Microfarm.  Not only are the letters cute, but they show just one way for students to practice spelling and writing.

"Dear Gardening Friends,
Thank you for donating stuf
for the garden.  We are
planting, radish, lettuce,
pepper, tomatoes.  Our group
planted tomatoes.  Have a
very happy spring.
Your friend Addy"

"Dear Gardening friends,
Thank you for helping with our
microfarm.  We planted some
veggies.  My group planted red
lettuce and green lettuce.
truely Ike"

"Dear Gardening friends,
We planted a microfarm.
Thank you for the money
to get us started.  We
planted Pepper, lettuce,
radish, tomato, and spinich

"Dear Gardening friends,
Thank you! Do you have a
garden?  I do.  The pumpkins
usually take over :)  What do
you plant in your garden?
Your friend,

"Dear Gardening friends,
Thank you.  We planted raddish,
lettuce, pepper, tomato, spinach.
There are 3 radish sprouts
in the plastic tray.
Have a nice summer.

"Dear Gardening friends,
Thank you for stuf for our
garden.  We plated some red
lettuce and some lettuce in
our room.  It is a lot of
fun.  You would love it.  I
can't wait to harvest the plants.
From Jake"

Monday, April 19, 2010

Activity: Farmers Market

In this activity, students will practice their addition and subtraction skills.

  • Fruits and vegetables (either real, plastic, or pictures)
  • Price tags
  • Budget or play money for students
  • Shopping list or recipe (optional)
  • Set up your classroom like a farmers market so that each student's desk sells a different fruit or vegetable.
  • Create price tags or signs with the price of each of the fruits and vegetables.
  • Have the students rotate between being shoppers and farmers.
  • When students are shoppers, give them play money and have them figure out what they can purchase at the market.  Shoppers can also use a shopping list or recipe so that they have some direction on what they can purchase.
  • When the students are farmers, they must calculate the appropriate change for the shoppers.
  • Have the students rotate between being shoppers and farmers.
  • When you are finished, use the fruits and vegetables for a snack.
  • Using copies of a grocery store's weekly flyer have students figure out what healthy foods they can purchase for a designated dollar amount.  Have students describe how much they spent, how much money they had left over, and why they chose the foods that they did.
  • Have students complete the Grocery Shopping Worksheet.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fruit and Veggie Alphabet

Do you know your Fruit and Veggie Alphabet?  From Apples to Zucchini there is an array of new fruits and vegetables you can introduce to your class.

Whether it's talking about, or even better tasting, fruits and veggies associated with the letter of the day or using your Fruit and Veggie Alphabet to decorate your classroom, the possibilities are endless.

Click here to download the flashcards (shown below) that list just a sampling of the fruits and vegetables for each letter of the alphabet.  You can also use the blank version of the cards to have students write in the names of the fruits and veggies.

How do you use your Fruit and Vegetable Alphabet?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Activity: Growing Potatoes and Carrot Tops

Capture the interest and imagination of students by growing carrot tops and potatoes.

  • Toothpicks
  • Glass or plastic cup or saucer
  • Water
  • Sweet Potato or Carrot
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Pebbles or pea gravel
  • Select a fresh carrot that still has the leaves on the top.
  • Cut the carrot so that about two inches remain below the top. 
  • Trim the leafy greens from the top of the carrot.
  • Fill a container with about one inch of pebbles or pea gravel.
  • Place the carrot tops, cut side down, in the gravel.  If necessary, add more gravel to hold the carrot tops in place.
  • Add water to the container.
  • Place the container in a sunny location.
  • Ask students to predict what will happen. 
    • Will a new carrot form? 
    • Will it grow? 
    • If so, how big will it get?
  • Observe the changes in your carrot.
  • Add water as necessary.
  • Although the carrot will not form a new root, after a few days leafy greens will start to appear.
  • Place four toothpicks around the middle of a potato.
  • Fill a cup with water.
  • Taking the potato with the toothpicks, rest the toothpicks on the edge of the cup.  The bottom of the potato should be sitting in the water.
  • Place the cup in a sunny location.
  • Ask students to predict what will happen. 
    • Will a new potato form? 
    • Will it grow?
    • If so, how big will it get?
  • Observe the changes in the potato.
  • Add water as necessary so that the bottom of the potato is in the water.
  • After a couple of days, roots will start to form in the water and stems and leaves will start to form.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Awesome School Garden Videos

I found this AWESOME website today that features school garden videos!

In particular, be sure to check out clip on Citysprouts.  Using interviews with students, the video shows why school gardens are so important and the impact it has on the students' lives.

And make sure to check out the "Back Pocket" Garden Activities.  These short videos show a variety of fun activities to do in the garden.  I enjoyed "Bug Races"!  It is such a simple activity but just look at how much fun the kids are having!

Click here to check it out!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

6 Tips to Get Kids to Eat Fruits/Veggies from the Garden

Parents know it isn't always easy to get kids to eat their fruits and veggies.  Gardening is a great hands-on approach to teaching children where their fruits and veggies come from and gets them to try the fruits and veggies they grow. 

To get kids to eat the produce from garden, consider these tips

  • Use fresh produce to garnish kids' plates.  Turn their plates into fun faces or make boats or houses.  Sometimes it's not a bad thing to play with your food!

  • Make pizza art.  Top pizza with favorite vegetables from the garden.

  • Beat the heat by freezing berries from the garden.  Place fresh berries on a baking sheet and place in freezer.  Once they are frozen, the berries can be placed in a freezer bag for storage.  For snack time, kids can eat the frozen berries or make smoothies. 

  • Make fruit and vegetable kabobs.  Kids can have fun skewering the produce and making colorful patterns.  Kabobs are also fun to eat!

  • Allow kids to taste test in the garden as they harvest.

  • Think of new words for fruits and vegetables.  Eat broccoli "trees" or cauliflower "clouds."  Let kids come up with their own creative names.

No matter the technique you use, the important thing is that kids are trying new fruits and veggies!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April School Garden Ideas

At the beginning of each month, the Got Dirt? WI blog features a variety of month-specific ways to incorporate your school garden into your classroom.

April is full of gardening related holidays.   Use some of these ideas below to celebrate your garden.  And don't be afraid to share your own ideas!

  • April: National Gardening Month: Celebrate a whole month's worth of gardening related activities.  Visit the National Gardening Association's website for some ideas. 

  • April: National Mathematics Education Month: Math and gardening go hand-in-hand.  Measure the heights of plants.  Plant some seeds and estimate how many will grow.  Figure out the percentage of plants that grew.  Use fruits and veggies to demonstrate fractions.  Identify the shapes of the fruits and vegetables.  Estimate the area of a leaf.  Map out your garden and calculate its area.  The possibilities are endless!

  • April: Children and Nature Awareness Month:  The goals for this year's events are first to "encourage parents to form their own Nature Clubs for Families.  And second, to invite grandparents and older outdoor enthusiasts to do their part to reconnect children and nature."  For a complete list of events in your area and for some great online resources for teachers, visit the Children and Nature Network's website

  • April: National Humor Month: Tell gardening and fruit/vegetable jokes and riddles.  For example, What types of vegetables do you find written on a piece of music?  Give up?  Two Beets!

  • April 3: Find a Rainbow Day: You may not be able to find a rainbow in the sky on "Find a Rainbow Day" but you can find one in your garden.  Have students identify fruits/veggies that match the colors of the rainbow.

  • April 4-10: Garden Week: Have a whole week dedicated to gardening.  Celebrate your garden and start some plants indoors.  Invite a Master Gardener Volunteer to visit your classroom to talk about gardening.

  • April 14: Look Up at the Sky Day: Go out to your garden and stare at the clouds.  Have students use their imagination to identify shapes in the clouds.  Drwa a picture of your garden and glue cotton balls to the paper for the clouds.  Don't forget to use this as an opportunity to teach what plants need to grow. 

  • April 22: Earth Day:  Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by finding ways to help your environment.  Have students sign a pledge to be good stewards of the Earth.

  • April 23: National Zucchini Bread Day: Although it's a bit early in Wisconsin to use zucchini from the garden, this is still a great opportunity to cook with fresh produce.  As a class, make zucchini bread and discuss fractions, measurement, and the importance of following a recipe in the right order.  Perhaps this will inspire you to grow zucchini in your garden!

  • April 23-25: Global Youth Service Days: Participate in community service.  Donate time to your school or community garden.  Have students create a service project that starts your school garden.  It is a great way to get students involved and ensure that the project gets off the ground.  Check out your Got Dirt? Toolkit for more information about using school gardens as service learning opportunities.

  • April 26-30: School Building Week: "Celebrating our nation's school and reinforcing the connection between school facilitates and student learning...School Building Week provides an opportunity to draw national attention to the importance of well planned, healthy, high performance, safe and sustainable schools that enhance student achieve and community vitality."  Click here for more information.  Use this week to evaluation the sustainability of your school and identify areas that need improvement.

  • April 27: Tell a Story Day: Read garden and fruit and veggie stories and have children write their own stories.

  • April 29: Greenery Day: A day in remembrance of the birthday of Japanese Emperor Hirohito.  The day is a time to commune with nature and be thankful.  Go outside and explore where you will put your garden.  Start to prepare your garden for planting.  Have students imagine what it will look like in the summer when everything is growing.  As a class, research some of the cultural differences between the United States and Japan (for example: what grows in a typical Japanese garden?).

There is plenty going on during the month of April.  What do you plan to do to celebrate these fun holidays?  Share your ideas below!