Mint, mum, mulch…

Garden educators know that it is challenging to work with a full class in the garden.  Most garden tasks just don’t lend themselves to 25 (or more) kids.  As such, I am experimenting with creating “discovery-based” activities that spread the kids out independently, with the teacher giving content and instruction up front and then acting as a resource to the kids as they complete the task.  Yesterday’s lesson confirmed to me that this is a good way to go, with dozens of opportunities to teach words and concepts one on one.

I enjoyed the alphabet scavenger hunt with first grade so much that I decided to adapt it to fourth grade.  To begin, students gathered at the table.  I told them that the day’s lesson was paying attention when we’re in the garden, for two reasons. One, there is always something going, and you’ll miss it if you’re checked out.  Two, Mrs. Elisara is sneaky.

I then gave a ten minute talk on what’s current in the garden.  As I spoke, I referenced a list of vocabulary words on the white board behind me: cool season vegetables, annuals, perennials, solar fountain, photovoltaic cell, etc.  At the end we repeated all the words together.  Then I erased them.

I explained that there were 26 clipboards with crayons placed around the perimeter of the garden in alphabetical order, clock-wise.  Students could go up to any clipboard and write down a word they “saw, heard or felt” in the garden.  If the word was already on the sheet, they couldn’t repeat it.  The clipboard had to be put back in the same place.  It was perfectly OK to ask an adult for the names of things.  (We had four volunteers on hand to teach vocabulary to every child who really paid attention to this rule!)  Every word used the first time was one worth one point. Every time a child had to be asked not to run—minus one point.  Every word that was on the board that I talked about earlier:  worth three points!  (Sneaky!)

Points would be awarded for creative words but not silly ones, and the top five point-earners would be invited to have lunch in the garden the following day with me, with a special garden treat (zucchini bread).

Read the “M” list, with special attention on the last word!

B is for basil, C is for chives

ESK is our Early Start Kindergarten class, and their bed features herbs and the alphabet.

Speaking of spelling… I follow the school garden blog for Alice Fung Yu Elementary in San Fransisco.  They put me on to an incredible resource, full of lesson plans:   I’ve barely ventured into the site, but one of the first things I found was a worksheet for an alphabet scavenger hunt.  (“Feel, smell, watch or listen to something from each letter of the alphabet. Write down or draw what your discoveries.”)  I tried it yesterday, and it was a hit!  Lots of sounding out of words as kids ran around, finding something in the garden for every letter!