Getting dirty comes naturally to seven year-olds and for the second graders at Barnesville School of Arts & Sciences it became an educational requirement for the 2013-2014 school year.
Working with Brickyard Educational Farms, Second Grade Teacher Chris Sawyer led her students in a yearlong, hands-on study of planting and gardening that “connected our study of Native Americans and their ways of using nature - specifically the 3 Sisters (corn, squash and beans) - to our own modern day gardens,” Mrs. Sawyer explained.
The students began the year learning about composting and seed saving to preserve the genetics of the plant. Then, beginning in February, with the help of Farmer Sophia from Brickyard, the students planted seeds in seed trays housed under grow lights in the classroom. Throughout March and April, the students cared for the seeds as they grew into plants. They recorded the plants’ growth using a growing journal, measuring their height each day, and they kept a watering journal to make sure they watered them enough but not too much. They also monitored the temperature of their charges.
“These tasks helped the students learn how to take care of the plants and incorporated math and science,” said Mrs. Sawyer. “They put their measuring skills to use when charting the temperatures and height of the plants and they participated in a hands-on experience with the life cycle of a plant, observing the different parts of the cycle. They are now able to teach other students and teachers about the different plants they were growing.”
Finally, in May, Farmer Sophia and Mrs. Sawyer helped the students put their plants into the garden beds by the playground. This step required the students to use their knowledge of weather to find the right time to plant in the spring, taking the following into consideration: no direct sun, clouds, low temperature, and low humidity.
The project, and partnership, also had implications for the students beyond just applying curricular skills. “Working with a real farmer instilled in the students an appreciation for farmers and how important it is to have fresh vegetables in your diet,” explained Mrs. Sawyer. “It also created an appreciation for Barnesville’s outdoor environment and each of the seasons that occur in Maryland; demonstrated how to take care of gardens in natural ways without pesticides and other chemicals, for example, the use of bugs to eat other bugs; and it let the second graders be leaders and take charge. You should have seen their faces if there was a plant that was wilted or dying! They have such a sense of accomplishment.”
The students were not the only ones to benefit from this collaboration. “The Barnesville landscape and environment are now more beautiful thanks to the hard work of the second graders,” said Mrs. Sawyer. “They are so proud of helping to make our school environment more beautiful.”
Read more about Barnesville’s community partnerships.