The new NGSS (science) standards emphasize hands-on science, preparing students for research and experimentation in college and engineering careers. In the 1st grade, students are expected to learn the parts of a plant; to understand what kind of input plants need to survive, and how they respond to different kinds of input; and how young plants share characteristics with parent plants. For a 6-7 year old, there is no better way to learn these standards than by putting their hands into dirt and actually growing the plants. The purpose of this grant is to allow students access to an indoor classroom garden, whereby they can experience multi-sensory learning and have complete class participation in botanical experiments and research. With pots large enough to grow indoor vegetables and herbs, solar lamps for north-facing classrooms, and water cans to help students provide the correct amount of water, students can watch plants grow before their very eyes, allowing endless opportunities for drawing, writing, comparing, and experimenting.
With the implementation of the new Next Generation Science Standards, it is no longer enough to read science texts and fill out worksheets. Students are expected to conduct empirical tests to examine how the natural world works; they must plan and carry out investigations in the field and classroom; and they must analyze, explain, and communicate data. This can be very difficult to do when science supplies are not available. Last year, the 1st grade tried to grow plants indoors. I personally found my north facing windows to be very difficult to work with; my students' plants only sprouted a couple sickly, pale leaves at best. Additionally, as a grade level we did not have the proper potting. The plants did not have enough space, so while basil and lettuce flourished at first, once they reached an inch in height, they all died. This was not only disheartening, but didn't allow the students to see all parts of the plant develop, or to compare an seedling to an adult plant. Solar lamps and large enough potting will allows us to grow plants to their full size. Students can chart a plant's progress through drawings and writing, examining the development of parts and comparing a seedling to a mature plant. They can take photos of the plants and report their progress using Seesaw, allowing parents a peek into their scientific learning. We can actually experiment, limiting and controlling light, space, and water for certain groups of plants, rather than fighting against conditions. If plants grow large enough, we can even incorporate nutrition into our curriculum, making a salad or salsa from the plants our student grew themselves. With proper materials, our students can become proper botanists, learning the skills they will need one day as real researchers, or at the very least college students.
A successful implementation of this program would mean students using multiple dimensions and modalities of learning, all centered around their classroom garden, to master the science standards concerning plants. They would be able to develop their literacy by reading and writing about what they are growing; they will be able to experiment, with controlled variables; they will be able to develop their naturalistic and kinesthetic learning styles; and they will collaborate with classmates to achieve success both growing plants, and in investigations. They will produce journals and scientific reports about their work, publications on Seesaw, and a recipe from food they grow.
Teachers will have pots and watering cans available in their rooms. The two 1st grade classrooms with north-facing windows will have a solar lamp. We have been able to access seeds and potting soil through donations and PACE funds previously. Every student will be able to plant seeds, water the plants, and have immediate visual access to the plants inside the classroom.
The grant is aimed to serve the entire grade-level team. What is more, because we study plants in the spring, if any classroom wants to use the lamps and pots in the fall for their own plant unit, we can provide that access to other grade levels/classes.
PACE (parent organization).