Something’s fishy with the strawberries

On Science Day, the upper grade students did a scavenger hunt.  (The questions are copied below for those garden coordinators among you.) The prize?  Lunch in the garden, with treats.

A week later, the dozen students with the most correct answers joined me for lunch at the garden table, and I laid out organic strawberries and oranges from our Be Wise Box.

Interestingly enough, one of the students had a box of store-bought, non-local strawberries with her, and as she shared them, the kids started an impromptu comparison taste test.  And as you can guess—it was no contest. The kids said the local, organic strawberry on the left was intensely flavorful and juicy–the one on the right had virtually no taste at all.

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Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

So wonderful to see kids connecting the dots themselves….It’s like the girl on the right is saying “Hmmmm, something ain’t right here!”  (You never know what teachable moments will present themselves in the garden.)

Science has a lot to do with….

asking good questions

and being observant

 Read the questions below.  The answers are somewhere in the garden.  If you are observant, you will find the answers!  The kids with the most correct answers found will be have lunch in the garden after Spring Break, with garden treats!

We can measure the temperature of the air, of water and of soil.  Soil usually has to be a certain temperature in the spring before it’s wise to put plants in the ground.  Find a soil thermometer in the garden and report the current soil temperature:

There is more variety in vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruit that you’d expect.  Find the seed catalogue and write down the number of different kinds of peas you can order (add the snow peas, snap peas and shelling peas together.)

How much rainwater is currently in the tanks?  (The gauge is at the top)

Seeds usually look and feel smooth.  What are their surfaces generally like when viewed under a microscope? Why do you think this is so?

Name one poisnous plant.

Notice how some of the fruit trees are flowering.  Why is this not necessarily a good sign in Julian in late March?  What could happen to these flowers?  What would happen to the fruit?

Beds #2, #3, #4 and #6 are planted out with peas.  Which bed was probably planted first?  Which was planted last?

How much rain did we get during our last storm?

Look at bed #1.  How many DIFFERENT varieities of daffodils are in this bed? (There are 2600 different named hybrids of daffodils in the world.)

Take a look at the bucket of finished compost in the wheelbarrow.  What did this soil used to be?

Name three herbs we are growing in the garden.

What are the four things that are necessary for habitat?

Find the seed packets.  Which plant will be the last to harvest?

A trellis is a fence-like structure planted in a garden bed for plants to grow up.  How many of our garden beds have some type of trellis?

There is one small tree in the only round garden bed in the garden.  What is it called?  Is it dead?

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!