At long last, winter arrived - just in time for teachers to come flocking for garden integration in their classrooms! Despite the frosty weather, we find ways to bring food and nutrition education into the classroom without taking students outside…or at least by bundling everyone up sufficiently!
Despite the flu virus running rampant this season, the fall semester at Holt Middle School has gotten off to a promising start. We continue to move full speed ahead. The Title I budget committee at Holt agreed to allocate a thousand dollars towards garden integration in math classes. Very little curriculum has been created to bring middle school math topics into the garden in a way that meets national curriculum standards. To find inspiration, I use web-based as well as printed resources to compile my list of lesson ideas. Distributing these ideas last week, along with a verbal pitch at a department meeting, yielded results that will keep me busy for months! I’ll be working with at least eight more teachers this semester to bring math and science classes out to the garden, along with bringing food and nutrition lessons into the classroom.
Yesterday, we took 5th grade science classes out to the garden to do a garden relay race. They’ve been studying simple machines, so using garden tools for chores in the form of a fun relay race was a great application of what they’ve learned. Students used shovels (lever and wedge) and tumblers (axle) to turn the compost, wheelbarrows (lever, wheel and axle, and inclined plane) to transport compost, hand tools (lever and wedge) to weed, and tillers to till the soil. They will also do some data analysis with the times recorded during the races.
More than providing a real world application of their knowledge of simple machines, this activity gave kids who’ve never spent time outside digging in the dirt a chance to connect with nature and where our food comes from. I saw kids approach the soil tentatively and very unsure of themselves. Children should not be afraid of the soil that grew their food, so hopefully activities like these will start to demystify the natural world, while at the same time making it something to ponder and appreciate.
Later this week, I will be administering a taste test in 6th grade math classes to start a discussion on the utility of surveying a random sample to make inferences about a larger population. I specifically chose food items that might be unfamiliar to the students to use this as an opportunity to expose them to new healthy snack options, for example, pistachios and persimmons. We will tally the students’ preferences to determine a class favorite, then graph the data and discuss its utility in predicting the preferences of a larger population.