Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Healthy Party Treats

One of kid's favorite rewards is a party in their classroom. Many teachers reward their students with pizza or popcorn parties, but there are healthier (and tasty) party treat ideas available. Visit the Fresh for Kids website to find out some interesting and simple party treats!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tricking Mother Nature

It seems gardeners are always looking for ways to outsmart Mother Nature and begin the growing process before it would naturally occur. Cold frames are a great option for extending the growing season, but one garden in California has gone a step further. Love Apple Farm has begun using soil heating cables that heat the area around plants to extend the growing season!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Plants have History

There are so many historical facts and stories that relate to gardening, fruits, and vegetables. It’s very easy and fun to incorporate these stories into your history lesson plans. Visit the Kids Gardening website at Kids Gardening to learn some interesting veggie history. Here are a few snippets of information from their website:

~By the time Columbus landed in the New World, corn had already been cultivated by indigenous people for more than 3,000 years.

~Pilgrims considered tomatoes an abomination on a par with dancing, card playing, and theater going.

~Onion juice in Elizabethan times was used to treat a range of ailments, from baldness to hemorrhoids.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Got Dirt!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Food Miles

Here are some great activities compiled by Falls Brook Centre, a sustainable community education center, located in New Brunswick, Canada.

These activities teach your students about where their food comes from and the importance of a healthy diet. All of the activities can be altered for your geographic area.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fed Up With Lunch

For the past year, a teacher has sat down and ate the school lunch with students to experience the nutritional (or lack of) value of their lunches. Read about her journey on her blog at Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project for some interesting insights.

Monday, December 20, 2010

ESL Activities

Working with ESL students and don't know how to coordinate vegetables into their lessons? Click on the link below to find some great ideas on the topic!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gardening in Alaska

We often think Wisconsin's short growing season is difficult to work with, but can you imagine trying to grow a garden in Alaska? Well, it's very possible. There's a great program developing in Alaska called the Schoolyard Garden Initiative. Consider contacting some of the schools that participate in this program to teach your students about different types of gardens and growing seasons!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Worms Everywhere!

You can start your very own vermicompost in your classroom! All you need is a bin, some newspaper, food scraps, and worms. It’s a fun exercise that can help your garden grow when spring rolls around.

1) One pound red worms
2) Wooden or plastic bin
3) Newspaper
4) Food scraps

1) Shred the newspaper and place it in the bin.
2) Add food scraps.
3) Evenly moisten the newspaper by sprinkling water over the bin.
4) Add the worms.

1) The bin will need a lid with holes poked in it so the worms can stay moist and dim and still get oxygen.
2) Drill drain holes in the bottom of the bin and place a tray beneath it. Worms create a nutrient rich moisture as they process the food. This can be captured and fed to plants in the classroom.
3) Worms need to be fed regularly but not overfed because food they don’t eat will rot in the bin. They also need to be checked regularly to make sure that they are not dry. Every few days should be sufficient.

For more information on vermi-composting, visit

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pizza Themed Herbs

Growing herbs is so easy, even in winter! Simply start with a pot or window box, as well as some basil, thyme, and oregano plants.

1) Assortment of herbs such as basil, thyme, oregano
2) Window box or flower pot
3) Gravel
4) Potting soil

1) Have students fill the bottom of the container with pebbles or gravel. This will help the soil drain so that the plants never sit in standing water.

2) Next, have them cover the gravel with several inches of potting soil. Getting a little messy is half the fun!

3) Show them how to slip the plants out of their pots. Help them scoop a hollow into the soil in the planter and then add the plants one at a time. Explain that the plants you'll grow are not only edible, but are actually the herbs that taste best on pizza!

4) After all of the plants are in the pot or planter, fill in any gaps between the plants with additional potting soil.

5) Finally, have them put the planter in a bright location. If possible, herbs like several hours of direct sun per day.

6) Encourage your students to make a calendar that reminds them to give the plants a little water each day.

If you snip a bit here and there from the plants, they will continue to grow. So, don't feel bad about gathering what you need to make mini-bagel pizzas. To do this, place sliced mini-bagels on a cookie sheet or baking stone. Add a small amount of tomato sauce. Sprinkle with chopped herbs. Add some mozzarella cheese and heat in the oven until the cheese is bubbly. Be careful; they’ll be hot ... but yummy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Activity: Winter Snowfall

This is a great activity to keep children active and aware in the garden during the winter months. Sticks can be placed throughout the garden so that comparisons can be made as to the depth of the snow. Children can keep journals about their findings, plot or graph the depth of the snow, or note differences on a map of the garden. This activity can provide a wealth of discussion about why and how depths would vary, and what this means for the garden.

1) Plastic rulers or yardsticks.
2) 24" to 36" lengths of 1" by 1" lumber.
3) Screws that fit in the holes of the plastic ruler.
4) Wood glue.
5) A hammer or rubber mallet to pound the stakes into the ground.
6) Drill with bit.

1) Glue the ruler to the lumber, so that there is at least a six inch space at the top and bottom of the 1" by 1".

2)When the glue is dry, drill holes through the holes in the ruler into the lumber. Then attach screws to the lumber.

3) Pound the snow stick into the ground, making sure it is deep enough so that the ruler touches the ground. The deeper the stick goes into the ground, the more stable it will remain through the winter. Now the stick is ready to measure snowfall.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Activity: Winter Garden Vision

On a cold winter day, when you can’t go outside and don’t know what to do, have your students create their own WINTER GARDEN VISION.

1) Memory and imagination
2) Seed or garden catalogs that you can cut up
3) Pencils, crayons, markers or paints
4) Pictures of your garden

1)Remember this years’ garden: Make a bulletin board that shows your garden and what happened in it. Use pictures, drawings, painting and whatever else you can think of.

2) Create next years’ garden: Make a plan of your garden for next year. Cut and paste, draw, paint, or create it on your computer. Then put your creation up on a bulletin board or your wall to remind you of what is to come.

3) Plan a special event: Make plans to have a special event in your garden. This could be a Garden Day, a Birthday celebration, tea for friends or relatives, or a harvest party. Make plans for the event, select the date, make invitations and send them out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Avocado Activity

Some of your student may not be familiar with an avocado, so this is a great activity to introduce them to something new!

Select a soft, ripe avocado. Peel it and spread on saltine crackers and have them sample it. Show the children the size of the seed inside the fruit. The large size may surprise them.

Wash the pit to remove the brown papery skin and any flesh residue.

Poke three toothpicks evenly around the middle (equator) of the pit. Use those tooth picks to support the pit on the rim of a clear glass or plastic cup with the pointed end up.

Fill the water so that the bottom third of the pit is covered in water. Place the clear glass in a bright, warm location, but out of direct sun. Change the water once a week.

In a few weeks, the pit will split open, the roots will grow out the bottom, and a shoot will emerge from the top.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pineapple Party

It may be a cold December day, but that doesn't mean you can't bring the tropics into your classroom! Here is a neat activity for growing your own Pineapple tree...even during those cold, blustery Wisconsin winters!

1) Pineapple
2) Shallow pan
3) Water
4) Soil
5) Pot

1)Believe it or not, you can use the leafy end of a store-bought pineapple to grow a great plant. In fact, it may even triple its size by the time 12 months have passed.

2) Just pick a pineapple with a good, leafy top. Cut that top off, leaving about an inch of fruit attached.

3) Set the pineapple top in a shallow pan, like an old layer cake pan, filled with water.

4) Once it begins to root, plant it in rich soil and keep the dirt moist -- but not too wet. To protect the tropical wonder from extreme cold, bring it inside when the weather drops below 45 degrees.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Activity: Food Bingo

This is a simple and fun variation on the traditional Bingo game.

1)Make Bingo cards with different types of fruits and vegetables; use lesser known plants so kids can learn about a brand new fruits and veggies!
--For example, try using kiwis and kohlrabi instead of potatoes and apples.
--Make enough cards for the number of children in your class.
3) Cards with the names of all the fruits and vegetables used on your bingo cards for the caller to shout out.
4)Cards with the letters (B-I-N-G-O)

1)Have the caller draw a letter and a fruit/veggie card. They will call something like “B-Eggplant”

2) When a child gets a row, they call out Bingo.

3) If possible, have these “strange” fruits and veggies available for students to sample after the game.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Garden Pals: Video Exchange

It's always fun to visit other school's gardens to see their diversity of crops and their activities, but sometimes that just isn't feasible. Most teachers would love to have their students visit a garden in Guatemala to experience a different gardening culture, but most won't be able to do that.

A great option for "visiting" other school gardens is to participate in a video exchange with other schools around the state, country, or world! Wouldn't it be amazing for your students to see their video pen pals from Ecuador growing corn and then standing in a banana jungle?

All you need to create a garden video is a thriving garden and a camcorder. You can either mail the videocassettes or post the video to be shared with another school online.

What should your video show? Keep it simple and interesting--15 to 20 minutes is plenty. Let your students each narrate a small portion, introducing themselves and showing the school and the garden. You can demonstrate the garden games you play or have students talk about their garden stories.

Where can you find schools to share these videos with? If you want to share your video with schools in Wisconsin, visit the for the names of school gardens around the state. For a country wide or worldwide garden, simply do a google search, contact the schools you think would interest your students and begin the communication process.

Happy Traveling!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Activities to Curb Cabin Fever

Now that winter is upon us, you may be thinking that there aren’t many plant activities that your students can participate in. However, there are lots of fun ideas to get students thinking about gardens, even when there’s snow on the ground.

Watch seeds sprout! Line a glass or plastic jar with a damp paper towel and insert several zucchini or lima bean seeds between the glass and the towel. Place a lid on the jar, leave it by a sunny spot and check the towel every day to make sure it’s still moist. Seeds should sprout in a few days.

Make your very own worm farm! Line a large cardboard box with a garbage bag. Fill it with soil, organic matter and a few warms. Keep it shady and moist, but not too wet. Add vegetable scraps to feed the worms. The worm farm will help teach students about the interdependence of plants and organisms as they watch the worms turn vegetable scraps into valuable compost.

Read a book! Telling a story about gardening to students during winter will get them excited for the growing (and eating) process later in the year.

Start a microfarm! You can grow microgreens (immature plants) for a tasty salad indoors all year long. The entire gardening process only takes about 3-4 weeks. For more information on building a microfarm, visit the Got Dirt? website at

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December School Garden Ideas

There are a lot of things I learned about December holidays…there’s a whole lot of days dedicated to sweet treats and not too many dedicated to healthy snacks. For instance, there’s National Cotton Candy Day on Dec. 7th followed quickly by National Brownie Day on Dec. 8th and not to be outdone, Dec. 15th is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. With all these indulgent days lined up throughout December, try to remember to eat healthy and keep your students on the right track. Have a very wonderful December!

Dec. 1st:
National Eat a Red Apple Day: Try an art project with your students that involve apples. When I was in elementary school, our art teacher had us paint 100 apples, but none of the apples could be the same. It was a horrendous, grueling, pain staking process for a 4th grader…it haunts me to this day. I wouldn’t recommend it. Here’s an activity that is more likely to please;

National Pie Day: Along with the traditional pumpkin or apple pies, try this homemade whoopee pie recipe that includes a secret ingredient…spinach puree!

Dec. 4th:
National Cookie Day: Remember, always in moderation! Here’s a slightly healthier cookie recipe;

Dec. 5th:
Volunteer Day: Take a break from the holiday stress to give your time to a worthy cause. This is a great opportunity to get your student’s in the giving spirit.

Dec. 5-12: Hanukkah

Dec. 17th:
National Maple Syrup Day: Did you know it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup? Wisconsin is one of 17 states that produce maple syrup.

National Underdog Day: It seems fruits and vegetables may be the underdogs during the month of December. Everybody roots for the underdog, so cheer them on!

Dec. 18th:
Wear a Plunger on your Head Day: Why not?

Dec. 19th:
Oatmeal Muffin Day: Here’s a great tasting recipe for a healthy treat!

Dec. 20th:
Games Day: Check out our blog for lots of great activities for your students, including games!

Dec. 21st:
First Day of Winter: For most Wisconsinites, winter came long before Dec. 21st.

Look at the Bright Side Day: When it’s 10 degrees below zero with gray skies, try looking on the bright side to perk up your day!

Dec. 25th: Christmas Day

Dec. 26th-Jan. 1st: Kwanzaa

Dec. 31st: New Years Eve