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Gardening Year-round in the Classroom Debra Spielmaker Utah State University Extension Agriculture in the Classroom School Garden Challenges Mandatory testing. When or how can I fit a school garden into my curriculum? Administration Location Funding

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Gardening Year-round in the Classroom

Debra Spielmaker

Utah State University Extension

Agriculture in the Classroom

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School Garden Challenges

  • Mandatory testing. When or how can I fit a school garden into my curriculum?

  • Administration

  • Location

  • Funding

  • Garden knowledge

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I just buy my food at the grocery store

  • Gardening has gone from a necessity to a hobby, but gardening in the future may:

    • Serve as an option for more sustainable communities

    • Improve nutrition and health

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Why Garden?

  • Because seeds are miraculous!

  • Healthy eating (kids try what they grow)

  • Strengthen relationships

  • Self-sufficiency, food preservation

  • Cooking, leading to better nutrition

  • Garden-based learning promotes a sustainable future.

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What Research Says

  • Children participating in activities from Health and Nutrition from the Garden had improved knowledge concerning the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, and they demonstrated an increase in healthier snack consumption after the study (Waliczek & Zajicek, 2006).

  • Third and fifth graders showed more positive attitudes toward fruit and vegetable snacks and an improvement in vegetable preference scores after completing activities from a nutrition gardening curriculum (Lineberger & Zajicek, 2000).

  • Garden-enhanced nutrition curriculum improves fourth-grade schoolchildren's knowledge of nutrition and preferences for some vegetables. The results lend support to the inclusion of vegetable gardens within the school setting. Administrators of future school garden projects are encouraged to include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in their garden programs (Morris & Zidenbert-Cherr, 2002).

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What Research Says

  • Nationally, about 20% of elementary schools students are overweight. In 2006, 22.5% (58,745) of Utah’s elementary school age children were overweight (Utah Department of Health, 2007).

  • A school garden can be a hands-on teaching tool affecting students’ attitudes and behavior regarding fruits and vegetables (Lineberger & Zajicek, 2000).

  • Interest in using gardens for educational purposes has grown over the past decade (Guy, Cromell, & Bradley, 1996).

  • Results show once weekly use of gardening activities and hands-on classroom activities help improve science achievement test scores (Smith & Motsenbocker, 2005).

  • Skelly and Bradley (2000) noted that not only do gardens need to be installed, but teachers need to learn how to incorporate them into their lessons.

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What is learned or gained from gardening?

  • Life skills

    • Planning

    • Cycles of life and nature

    • Nutrition

    • Hard work

    • Biology, chemistry, ecology and other sciences

  • Communication

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School Gardening Content

  • Not just science…but the opportunity for curriculum integration creating a cognitive learning opportunity to improve retention and student achievement.

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Getting Started - Indoors

  • Start small

    • Window boxes or containers, because of their small size, can actually turn out to be rather luxurious gardens. Recycle clean bleach and milk containers. Cut off the tops and use them as planters.

      • Mobility

      • Drainage of a container is the most important consideration

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Getting StartedIndoors or Outdoors

  • Get some child-sized tools from a local nursery or garden center. Try to find tools that look genuine so the kids will feel like real gardeners.

    • Can't afford it? Plastic spoons and shovels work well in small boxes.

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What Plants Need to Grow

  • Media to anchor plants(soil or soilless media, or water)

  • Nutrients

  • Water

  • Light

  • Optimum temperature

  • CO2 (only an issue for production greenhouses)

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Plant Growth Media

  • Indoor: Seeds or Cuttings

    • Paper towels (seeds)

    • Cotton (seeds)

    • Rockwool (not recommended)

    • Floral foam (cuttings)

    • Jiffy-7 pots (seeds or cuttings)

    • Seed starting (soilless) media (seeds or cuttings)

    • Water (cuttings)

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  • How much?

    • Indoors, less is best

    • Provide drainage

    • Outdoors…what type of soil do I have?

      • Sand, more water

      • Clay, less water

      • Loam, ah just right!

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Textural Triangle

  • Send your soil samples to soil lab, usually at land grant colleges and universities

  • Order a soil testing kit of your own and test the soil ($60)

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  • Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, N-P-K

  • Fertilizer nutrient functions

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Primary Nutrients

  • Nitrogen (N) Key element in plant growth

    • Promotes vigorous leaf and stem growth to improve the overall quality of the turf

    • Essential component of the chlorophyll molecule which gives turf its dark green color

    • Involved in regulating the uptake of other key elements

  • Phosphorous (P) Used in the formation and transfer of energy within the plant

    • Influences early root development and growth

    • Encourages plant establishment

  • Potassium (K) Used by the plant in large quantities, second only to nitrogen

    • Key component in the formation of carbohydrates, or food for the plant

    • Encourages rooting and wear tolerance

    • Enhances drought and cold tolerance

    • Key component in cell wall strength and resistance to disease

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  • Keep the light close, withinone inch of the top growth.

  • Best light spectrum: one cool and one white light

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Optimum Temperature

  • Varies, air and soil

    • cool season: peas, greens of all kinds

    • warm season: corn, squash, beans

    • tropical…who are you guys? Florida & California?

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Getting Started - Outdoors

  • Be willing to put up with a less-than-perfect looking garden

    • crooked rows and some weeds are okay

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Getting Started - Outdoors

  • Leave an area where kids can dig, even after planting. This is often their favorite part of gardening.

    • Look for earthworms together!

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Getting Started - Outdoors

  • Make a secret place in the garden for kids.

  • Leave a space between the stalks of easy-to-grow sunflowers or bean poles so they can crawl inside.

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Getting Started - Outdoors

  • Kids like extremes, so plant huge flowers, like sunflowers, and small vegetable plants, like cherry tomatoes. Plant fragrant flowers or herbs.

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Getting Started - Outdoors

  • Teach kids about the importance of soil and how to compost.

  • Always use untreated seeds.

  • A word about pesticides and fertilizers…

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Getting Started - Outdoors

  • Easy with web resources





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Local Resources

  • Check with your county Extension Office, garden centers, public/private gardens to see what is offered locally.

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Literature in the Garden

  • Books:

    • Kids Gardening:

    • Junior Master Gardener Lessons with books:

      • Plantzilla

      • Miss Rumphius

      • Brother Eagle Sister Sky

      • The Gardener

      • Tops & Bottoms

      • Weslandia

    • National Resource Directory:

    • Utah Agriculture in the Classroom:

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Calendar of Activities

  • Seed or flower dissection:

    • Conifers, Dicots & Monocots

  • Making compost, vermiculture

  • Sprouting seeds

    • Living Necklaces, Gloves, Jewel Cases

  • Sprouting sprouts in a jar

  • Jiffy-7 pots

  • Growing potatoes indoors

  • Cuttings

    • water, floral foam, vermiculite

  • Division

  • Transplanting

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Calendar of Activities

  • Lots of Nutrition…

    • Fruit & Vegetable Bulletin Board and more…

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Garden take-home...

  • When we understand the resources and cycles involved in food production, we begin to see how agriculture affects our quality of life and our environment.