* Photos taken in fall 2019/early 2020
A salad party may not sound like fun at first, but that might change after you learn about, planting, tending and harvesting your very own garden. Earlier this year, Heather Brown, Belinder second-grade teacher, incorporated a tower garden learning experience into multiple educational opportunities.
The Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation recognized Brown with an Excellence in Teaching award. These awards are given to exemplary teachers who integrate agriculture lessons into the classroom. Tower gardens are grown vertically, allowing a lot of plants to be grown in a small space.
Brown’s tower garden lessons incorporated vocabulary, reading, writing, math and science practice. Upon harvesting, the class enjoyed the benefits of their hard work, celebrating with a salad party.
Students were introduced to new vocabulary words, read articles and answered comprehension questions about indoor gardening. In groups, they worked to become experts about what they learned, presented their researched ideas to the class, studied the cost of the seeds, measured the amount of seeds needed, and explored best practices for beginning gardeners.
Students started plant journals and wrote letters to their families about planting. The class discussed timing for lighting and setting the water pump for indoor growing. They tracked progress in their journals throughout the process and held discussions comparing and contrasting the growth of different plants. Second-graders predicted which plants would be ready for harvest first, how tall they would be, which they looked forward to eating, and compared indoor and outdoor gardening.
“The tower garden lent itself nicely to experimenting with the effects of sunlight and water, as we discuss in science and study interdependent relationships in ecosystems,” Brown noted. “We developed models for pollinating the flowering plants indoors. We observed plant life indoors and compared it to plant life outdoors through the different seasons.”
To practice math skills, students measured growth, created graphs and wrote word problems. The class planted and harvested threes time prior to spring break and shared food with other classes. Brown even took the tower garden home and began growing it outdoors, sharing the progress and lessons with her students throughout fourth quarter via video chat sessions.
As a winner, Brown received a choice of a $600 scholarship to attend a conference or a $200 gift certificate to purchase classroom supplies.
She was nominated by a friend impressed with her tower garden initiative in the classroom.