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Top 5 K-12 Gardening Activities

1. Seed Germination Experiment

Growing seeds in clear containers so that your students can observe the process that usually happens underground is a great way to teach students how a plant begins its journey.

 

What You Need

  • Clear jars or plastic cups
  • Paper towels
  • Bean or pea seeds
  • Water

What To Do

  1. Fold paper towels to fit them into the containers then add water so your paper towels are wet. Do not flood the jar.
  2. Add your seeds along the inside of the jar so that you can see them. Be sure they each have a few inches of space and are securely held in place by the paper towels.
  3. Observe the seeds daily. Add water to the paper towels if they begin to dry out. Seed germination times vary but typically happen around 2 weeks.
  4. Once your seeds begin to grow leaves, they are ready to be planted in the garden!

 

2. Hydroponics in the Classroom

Hydroponics is the agricultural method of growing plants in nutrient rich water without soil and is a unique way to teach students what plants need in order to grow.

 

What You Need

  • Large plastic container, the size depends on available classroom space and desired number of plants
  • A styrofoam sheet that fits in your container, at least ½ inch thick
  • Lettuce seeds
  • Rock wool cubes
  • Hydroponic nutrient solution
  • Hydroponic/aquarium pump with a tube

What To Do

  1. Cut holes in the styrofoam sheet to securely hold rockwool cubes that have soaked in your nutrient solution.
  2. Place the cubes in the holes and place a seed on top of each cube.
  3. Fill your container 1 inch from the top with water and set up your pump so the tube is in the water and held in place by the styrofoam.
  4. Place the styrofoam sheet on the water’s surface and wait for your seeds to germinate.
  5. Replace the water every 2 weeks and add nutrient solution as directed on the packet.

 

3. Forcing Bulbs into Early Bloom

You can force spring blooming bulbs into bloom in the fall by tampering with their environment to teach students how to manipulate plants to maximize the harvest.

 

What You Need

  • Shallow and wide pots, around 5 inches deep
  • Spring blooming bulbs
  • Potting mix

What To Do

  1. Fill the pots with moist potting mix. Place no more than 3 bulbs in each pot. Bury the bulbs completely with the pointy-end up.
  2. Place the pots in a refrigerator or any place between 33-50 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 weeks or until roots begin to show through the drainage holes of the pot
  3. Remove the pots from the refrigerator and place them inside for 2 weeks with no direct sun.
  4. Move them to a windowsill where they get sunlight to bloom. This will take 2-4 weeks.

 

4. From Seed to Salad – Growing Your Own Food

If you are limited on space, growing greens like lettuce and spinach are easy to do indoors and require minimal materials.

 

What You Need

  • Seeds
  • Potting mix
  • Containers or pots with drainage holes

What To Do

  1. Fill the pots with moist potting mix and sprinkle the seeds 1 inch apart from each other. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of dirt.
  2. Place the pots in a windowsill with the most amount of sunlight possible.
  3. Keep the soil moist then water as needed once the seeds germinate.
  4. Harvest the leaves when they are green and a few inches tall. Do this by cutting the outer leaves above the soil every few weeks.

 

5. Observe How Water Travels Through Plants

Using colored water to water your flowers can teach students how plants ‘drink’ water through osmosis.

 

What You Need

  • White or pale colored flowers from your garden (typically done with white carnations)
  • Clear vases or cups
  • Water
  • Food coloring

What To Do

  1. Fill your vases with water and add food color for the desired color.
  2. Cut the stems of your flowers diagonally and place some in each vase.
  3. Observe the plants every few hours for the next 2 days. The students can watch the water travel up through the stem and eventually into the flower petals.

Check out our store for easy school garden kits HERE! Plus, waatch this great video about gardening in schools HERE!

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How To Get a Grant for a School Garden

Having a garden for your school can be one of the most rewarding projects, not only for your students, but also for you! But, as rewarding and special as school gardens can be, they can be difficult to get started. Getting your school garden off the ground and running requires funding and support. If you are having trouble finding grants for your garden, we have just the right resources for you.

 

Introduction to Grants:

 

For starters, grants are money specially designated for a distinct purpose. They are typically given out to a wide array of those in need of specific funding like businesses, governments, and even individuals. You or your school can also apply for grants. Grants are always for a specific purpose and often require some level of reporting or compliance to the rules stipulated in the grant. In order to get a grant, you will have to apply and follow the rules and guidelines as well as answer the questions provided in the application process. There are many routes to take when applying for grants but one of the best things to do as a precursor to applying is to have a plan. Create a plan that maps out the intended garden size, potential activities, and how a garden will impact your school overall. This plan will strengthen your case to get approval for the garden from your school administration and will help you answer questions when applying for grants. The next step is to actually find grants that are for your project: a new school garden!

 

 

Finding Grants For Your Garden:

 

Finding grants and applying to them can actually be one of the hardest and most frustrating things when starting a school garden. Not only does it seem overwhelming with the number of potential grants there are and figuring out where to start, but also applying and waiting on the results can be a pain. A potential helpful tip for this problem is to start somewhat small. Apply to small foundations and grants before swinging for the fences with the larger grants. Also, knowing the proper places for applications and committing to the work will benefit you in the long run. The process can be time consuming but ultimately very rewarding because it can lead you to your very own school garden! Here are some of the best places to find grants for your garden:

 

One of the most helpful sites is called $eedMoney. This foundation gives out 255 grants totaling in $40,0000 dollars to all kinds of community garden projects, as well as, school gardens. $eedMoney gives grants and raises money based on a crowdfunding challenge that runs a month long. You are also able to donate throughout the year. The great thing about this foundation is that it is a one stop shop for many grants that you could possibly qualify for. They also offer helpful tips on starting a school garden as well as all kinds of regular gardening tips once your garden is up and running.

Link:https://seedmoney.org/school-garden-resources/?gclid=Cj0KCQjws_r0BRCwARIsAMxfDRivsqagICkFoDkI2H07yiEbw3nl25_390PVjWwu8wSzCgcDcB0F6DkaApNSEALw_wcB

 

Another amazing site for grants is KidsGardening.org. This site is special because, as the title suggests, it focuses directly on kids and gardening with them. This will be such a helpful resource once your school garden is functioning. They have links and tabs for educators during the gardening process and a “Gardening Toolbox” with tips for gardening basics and activities. But, most importantly for your initial start-up, they have a massive list of grants for potential gardens just like yours. Their grant page lists grants that KidsGardening offer and grants from other various foundations. This site will be great before and after you get your very own school garden!

Link: https://kidsgardening.org/grant-opportunities/

 

Another potential website for grants and gardening help is Growing Spaces. This site focuses on selling and building domes and greenhouses, but they also have an entire page for non-profit foundations that offer grants for community gardens. Growing Spaces offers discounts to schools when buying from them which is a nice kicker along with their support. They continually update their list of potential grants and have an email and phoneline for those with questions.

Link: https://growingspaces.com/gardening-grants/

 

There is another route to take when finding or applying for grants and that is through credit unions. Oftentimes, credit unions offer grants to various businesses and schools in order to grow a strong community around them and support their customers. Right here in North Florida, Envision Credit Union offers their own Envision Classroom Grants. This focuses on giving teachers the opportunity to “expand their curriculum and engage their students” (Envision Credit Union). This is perfect for a school garden and the application process is quick and easy.

Link: https://www.envisioncu.com/envision-classroom-grants/

 

 

Getting Going:

 

Finally, you have found your grant and are working on applying. As mentioned before, its best to have a plan so you know what you need to accomplish your goals and cement your vision for your own school garden. Application requirements for these grants will vary between each one and applying to these will certainly take time; some more than others. You just have to be prepared, patient, and persistent and you will get the school garden of your dreams. Check back in with Farming the Future for more tips, tricks, and advice on getting, having, and running your very own school garden.

 

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K-12 Gardening Activities

Once you get your garden going, it is important to visit it regularly to maintain healthy plants. It may be useful to create a weekly task chart for weeding and watering. However, there are many educational activities to do with your students once your garden is up and running.

 

How to make seed balls

Seed Balls are a clever way to start a garden or renovate a dull patch of land. Seed balls consist of potting soil, plant seeds, powdered dry clay, and water. The plant seeds can be multiple seeds of one plant or a variety, so long as they all grow well in the season you are planting in. First, you mix 1 ounce of seeds with 7 ounces of soil. Then, add 3 ounces of your clay. When it is all thoroughly combined, slowly add water until the combination turns into a paste that you can form into balls in your hands without falling apart. Let them sit for 24 hours

These balls can be randomly tossed out or strategically placed on your garden depending on your desired effect. Once they are outside in the dirt, they only need a bit of water to get them growing. These are an easy, hands on activity to complete in the classroom on a day when working in the garden is not an option. Also, they will give each student a sense of responsibility to look over their seed ball and encourage its growth.

It is important to remember that placing too many seeds in the mixture can cause overcrowding and impair the seeds’ growth. Also, although each ball has what it needs to grow, the placement of them outdoors can affect its success. Seeds need sunlight to germinate and require maintenance just like any other seeds.

These are also a great gift idea for the students to give to their guardians to take home a piece of their school garden to share with their family.

 

K-5 Gardening Activities

 

Follow the Life Cycle of Your Plants

Young kids who have never grown a garden may struggle to recognize the end goal or the importance of patience when growing things. Beginning with the seeds they planted either in the classroom or the garden, walk the students through every step the plant will undergo all the way up until it is ready to be eaten. This will help the students understand where their food comes from and what they have to look forward to.

Many young kids respond well to pictures, so include pictures of the plants, from a sprout to fully mature, so that they know what to look for in the garden and will be able to identify the plants without the garden markers. This activity will also help the kids to connect a healthy diet with the fun and sustainable activity of gardening.

 

6-8 Gardening Activities

Watch Flowers “Drink” Water

To help students understand the way a plant absorbs water, all you need are some white carnations, cups of water, and food coloring. Have the students place a few drops of food coloring into a glass of water until they have their desired color. Then, place a white carnation in the glass and wait! Check the plants every few hours, or set up a time lapse video to capture the magic. In about 24 hours your carnations will be the color of your food coloring.

This activity is to teach students the process of transpiration within the plant. This will help students to understand how a plant grows after watering the ground where it is planted. This activity can be done with K-5 students but because of the likelihood of spills, it may be best only for the teacher to have the flowers.

 

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Farming The Future Leadership – Emily Gaines

Emily Gaines spent a number of years teaching in the California public school system before leaving to pursue farming.

As a credentialed teacher working in Title one schools she had become increasingly disillusioned with the traditional public school systems. And their bility to reach the students who need the most help. Emily is Raising a son with severe learning disabilities. She is personally aware of how significantly the school system can fail students who are not traditionally successful.

Emily earned her bachelor’s degree at California State University, Sacramento.

As a farmer Emily has continued to find joy in teaching. Working on the board of her local beekeepers association to encourage volunteers in the classroom, mentoring new growers as they embark on their own farming journey. Plus writing guides and articles to help others grow. She is deeply committed to helping the next generation of agricultural enthusiasts. And helping them to find their calling and their confidence.

Emily loves gardening and runs her own farm. Her specialty is microgreens and edible flowers.

She has a young son who has demonstrated to Emily first hand the impact that gardening has on a young mind. Emily is a great lover of all sciences. She frequently tries out new and fun experiements while working her farm to share with students across the world.

Emily loves all living things and you will frequently hear poultry of all different variety on her end of the phone. Herself and her son like to raise them and consider them members of the family. Plus, its great exercise for the little one when the turkeys wake up feeling like they want race!

Being an excuisite leader, she is the main lead on many of our growing techniques and guides!

Emilys favorite program is our 3-5th grade 5×5 raised garden enrichment program. If you want to find out more, click HERE! Check out Emilys farm HERE!

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Farming The Future Leadership – Tara Laidlaw

Tara Laidlaw has worked at the intersection of formal and informal education for nearly 15 years, serving as a program manager, instructional designer, and teacher trainer in a wide range of settings. After seven years as the director of an educational farm in Massachusetts, she returned home to the west coast, where she now specializes in helping place-based, project-based, and informal education programs support the Next Generation Science Standards.

Tara holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropological Sciences from Stanford University and a master’s degree in Natural Science and Environmental Education from Hamline University. In addition to her work in Oregon, she facilitates NGSS-focused workshops at regional and national conferences, and she writes articles about farm-and garden-based learning for national publications.

Tara is a kind hearted, outstanding educator. She is quoted “While my specialization is farm- and garden-based education, I’m equally at home working in other contexts such as wilderness preserves, summer camps, historic estates, and hybrid online/in-person settings. I love to help programs find creative solutions to drive student and teacher performance in out-of-the-box, outstanding ways. I am out to learn, and I hope you are too!”

Farming The Future is proud to have Tara on our leadership team and look forward to continuing development of creative solutions together. Ms. Laidlaw especially loves working with upper elementary and middle school students. That being so, check out her favorite garden enrichment program for middle school here! You can also access her website here!

Check out  some of her work!

Selected Conference Presentations:

Publications:

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Farming The Future leadership – Meera Jagroop

Meera Jagroop is a museum educator specializing in science interpretation and exhibit design.

During her ten years as a science educator, she has developed programs, interpretation, and exhibitions for all ages. Including at Cleveland Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, The American Museum of Natural History, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Ms. Jagroop has represented institutions at conferences around the country. Presenting on topics ranging from engaging caregivers of young learners to gardening programs for children with disabilities. She also participated in the design and oversees the new Discovery Garden. This is a one-acre, accessible, hands-on garden in Brooklyn, NY.

Meera has an M.S.Ed in Museum Education from Bank Street College of Education. As well as a B.S. in Natural History and Interpretation from SUNY-Environmental Science and Forestry.

She currently lives in Brooklyn. And is passionate about teaching about nature, botany, and gardening in urban environments.

On top of being a steward of the environment and education, Meera is a kind and detail oriented leader.

One of her best skills is listening and interpreting the road blocks that some students experience. Ms. Jagroop has a special ability to present ideas in different ways. Each one breaking through to a different student.

“I love connecting people of all ages with the natural world, especially in urban environments. I hope to provide others with the same empowering experiences with science and nature that have helped shape and expand my own world. I’m passionate about working towards environmental justice, integrating science with the arts, creating accessible programs and spaces, and uplifting traditional ecological knowledge.”

Recent exhibits for children and families include: At Home In Winter: Birds of BBG, Chinese Caribbean Plants, Planting a Hummingbird Garden, Predatory Plants, and Where Did Plants Come From? (Plant Evolution)

Meera is a hands on educator and has a particular love for working with younger elementary students. Her favorite program is Prek-2nd grade 10×10 Full year Raised Garden Science Program. Check it out HERE!

You can also find out more about the Discovery Garden HERE!

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What a Garden Can Do for Your School

Having a school garden can be one of the best things you can implement at your school for many reasons. From science education to healthy living having a school garden can change the lives of the students at your school. Making them strong, smart, and environmentally conscious adults in the future.

School Garden Educational Benefits

The first and most obvious benefit of having a school garden is the important and powerful educational impact. It will impact your students and your school. By having a school garden, students can actually see the science in action and can have the ability to participate in hands-on activities. Going out into the garden transforms the school experience from being a passive learning environment to an active one. The kids will learn natural science by growing vegetables. Plus learn responsibility taking care of the garden rather than sitting in a classroom doing worksheets.

There will be an increased motivation to learn. Not only because your students will be able to go outside, but also because they engaged in a rewarding and creative process. Through their education they get the ability to grow something and then harvest it once its ripe. These small experiences and teaching moments can be game-changing for students. Specifically for those who learn more effectively through hands-on methods. Also, research has shown that this type of learning has vastly improved test scores for schools.

Social Skills & Community Centered Benefits From School Gardens

Another benefit of having a school garden is the ability for your students to work together. Not to mention, grow together, and engage in enriching and fulfilling activities. A school garden will not only teach patience, but also dedication to seeing their work (gardening their vegetables) to their end. The students have to be committed to their garden. Because it will be in part their own work, they will want to be. The students will communicate, form bonds, and learn teamwork skills through gardening.

Also, by growing their own food, they are able to eat it after. Sharing it with their fellow peers, friends, and family. This alone builds a strong sense of community with your students. It can also inspire them to think of others and have a real sense of pride from sharing their hard and rewarding work. Your students will learn their role and their impact in the lives of others. Plus how they can make a real difference to those around them.

School Gardens & Healthy Habits 

As mentioned before, your students will be able to eat the very vegetables that they have grown. Not only is this so fulfilling for your students, but it also engrains healthy lifestyle habits. By having a school garden, you are teaching them how to grow their own food. This will follow them throughout their lives. They will gain an appreciation for eating healthy foods because it is their own and delicious. Your students can carry this love of healthy eating and sustainable growing into their adult life. It will also improve the quality of food being served in your school’s cafeteria. There are so many long lasting benefits that come from having a school garden.

Environmentally Conscious Students

The sustainability taught through gardening is existentially important. With the present climate crisis, teaching the youth of today the importance of respecting our planet is a necessary step in preserving their lives and our planets future. Your students will learn the significance of taking care of the Earth and in turn taking care of themselves. They will gain a respect for nature because they are literally taking part in it. And in ways that they may not have access to at home. This awareness of the way nature works and how they can have an impact on it is essentially important in cultivating stewards for the environment.

Learning the natural science and biological education provided with gardens. Plus their team-building skills, and their healthy lifestyle habits, your students will pave the way for the future of environmentalism.

Want A School Garden? What’s Next?

School gardens will change the lives of your students and your community in so many ways. If you have decided that a garden is right for your school, then Farming the Future has the resources that will help you get on your way. You can go to our page (HERE) for more information on how to raise funds to get your school garden up and running. Stay tuned for more tips and advice on gardening, science education, and more!

Looking for more? Check out this great resource for free and easy lesson plans! (HERE)

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How to Start a School Garden

There are many benefits of growing a garden with your students. Gardens are a natural and fun way to engage the students with hands-on STEM and knowledge about sustainable living.

 

The process of growing plants teaches responsibility and teamwork with a delicious and healthy product! Planning a new garden at your school may seem like a daunting task, but we have laid out what is necessary to get you started. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to harvesting nutrient rich foods with the help of eager students.

 

Talk to a School Administrator

 

First, you will need to speak with your principal. They will probably have questions, so create a plan.

 

Sciece teacher

 

 

Search Grants for School Agriculture

 

Research garden grants or teacher grants to help with funding your project. Some of your local banks or credit unions may have these listed on their website.

 

Crowdfund a Garden

Getting a grant can take time, if you are interested in crowdfunding for your schools garden, try it with us! CLICK HERE

 

Where to Put a School Garden

 

You will need to find an open plot of land that will be suitable for growing plants. Gardens can be in the ground or in raised garden beds. Raised garden beds provide better water drainage and help keep pests out of your crops but can be expensive or labor intensive. In ground gardens utilize the soil you already have and require less water maintenance. Also, gardens in the ground are typically cheaper and more flexible between crops. Some necessities of a good garden spot include:

  1. Approximately 6-8 hours of sunlight per day
  2. A dependable water source
  3. Nutritious soil to maintain plant health
  4. Open space to prevent overcrowding and ensure every student can access the plants

 

Crop Planning for a School Garden

 

Researching what you want to grow and what you can grow is a vital first step toward a new garden. Depending on your school’s location and the season, some plants will grow better than others. Check out our LINK page for more information on good beginner plants for your school.

 

Once you know what you’re growing, it’s time to plan the layout! This can be a fun activity to do with your students to engage them creatively. It is important to remember that not all plants grow well side by side, and some need more space than others.

 

Also, be sure that all students are able to reach the plants to tend to them. A common layout of gardens includes walkways between each row of plants that are covered with mulch. Choosing the right type of mulch for your garden can help prevent weeds and transfer nutrients to the soil and plants.

 

Time to get Your Hands Dirty!

 

Once you have a blueprint for your garden, you can obtain the necessary tools and seeds to get started from your local gardening centers. When you begin planting, remember that a garden requires constant upkeep. Creating a task chart and weekly schedule for the students to complete the work is a practical way to maintain a healthy garden.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Researching and planning is vital to having a successful garden. Always keep in mind that there are many resources out there to help you every step of the way. Growing a garden is a fun adventure to undergo with your students because of the wonderful impact it can have on each individual as well as your community as a whole. Inspiring the future generations with useful and sustainable awareness of healthy lifestyles leads to a healthier and happier world. Check back to OUR BLOG for more posts on gardening and other classroom activities.

 

 

 

 

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Farming The Future Leadership – Carlos Villa

Carlos R. Villa has been developing and implementing science education programs since 2002. Included in these programs are field trips, summer camps, and student-scientist mentorship programs. In 2018 he earned the National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) Citation for Distinguished Informal Science Education. Following his rcognition from 2018, in 2020 he was a finalist for Florida State University’s Employee of the Year.

Carlos was born in Managua, Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, Florida. He earned his BS from Florida State University in 2002. Mr. Villa then earned his MS in Science Education in 2009. Villa works to inspire young learners of all backgrounds to pursue their dreams of careers in science and engineering. As well as to increase diversity in science, particularly to get more women, African Americans, and Latinx students into physics.

In the summer of 2020, when COVID-19 shut down many camps, Carlos was instrumental in the creation of the MagLab’s virtual 10-week Summer Exploration Series (SES) program offered to K-12 students in Tallahassee and across the nation. The goal of the program was to increase youth’s interest in STEM and knowledge of STEM careers relevant to MagLab specific STEM disciplines, including materials science, biomedical and mechanical engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, and physics. (Full Article here!)

Carlos has lead development on many of our programs including our teams favorite overall pick, the 3-5th grade TableTop Living Laboratory w/ Online Curriculum. Check it out here!