Perhaps it’s a sign you’ve been doing something a while when you’ve collected your own little bag of tricks for doing things. Here’s a peek at a few garden educator tips.
When you don’t have a lot of time to plant, and you want things to be relatively well spaced, I’ve discovered the beauty of plastic cutlery. These little knives (very unsharp) were put in the bed before kids arrived. Then kids were told to take a knife, swirl it around to make the correct planting depth, drop in the seed, and cover it back up with soil. Then they discarded the knife in a pot. Then we remember that a particular spot was already planted.
A bag of old shoelaces on hand! Used for tying watering cans to the fence, and everything else.
One day I got really tired of saying “Take this shovel to the raised bed that used to have the snapdragons and is now sown with peas.” It was then I hit upon (!) nailing a garden variety (!) house number to each raised bed. Instructions are now much easier. “You, take this to bed 3. You, wait for me over at 6.”
The secret to my success, both professionally and personally? The clipboard. I know, I know. I get asked all the time if I’m taking the census or training to be a camp counselor. But I love clipping lots of notes together, the moveable writing surface, etc. In the garden, they are indispensable. I clip together notes for volunteers, pass them out with guided activities for kids, you name it.
Wreaths! I have wire and forms in a box, ready to go at all times. Making wreaths is such a great way to have student work with (touch, smell, see) seasonal foliage. We make wreaths to go home, but I also have a few larger grapevine forms stored that we switch out every couple weeks and hang them on doors around campus. Here students made wreaths to pass out at a school board meeting to thank them for all they do!
Not every project has to go home with the students! I tied all of these bird feeders up in the plum tree, and it made a beautiful display.
Finally, get students to touch as many things in the garden as possible. Impossible to take a whole class out to harvest kale for cooking later in the day? Ask a teacher to “borrow”two students at a good point during the day to do the harvest. Result? Skyrocketing ownership.