Book Review: Growing Food

Susan L – Horticulturist

Ask your students to tell you where our food comes from. Do they respond with a restaurant or a grocery store name? Do they suggest it is made in a factory? What about on a farm? Do any of your students hint about our food supply's connection to nature and our environment?

Most kids growing up in our society have only a vague idea of where food comes from and how it is produced. Fortunately, educators at the Teachers College in New York City have created a curriculum titled LiFE, Linking the Food and The Environment, comprising of a series of three books for students in Grades 4-8. Published by KidsGardening, the LiFE curriculum incorporates science lessons designed to teach youth about food, nutrition, the environment and the connections between them.

GrowingFood_CoverGrowing Food is the first book of the LiFE curriculum. Targeted to Grades 4-6, it's a thought provoking, action changing, inquiry-based curriculum that supports student investigations of topics in life science using a familiar and much loved domain – food. By investigating the question, "How does nature provide us with food?" students learn about the cycling of matter in nature, flow of energy, and food systems —critical ideas in science. They engage in hands-on investigations of photosynthesis, food webs, agriculture, and more.  Students explore and analyze their personal food choices through scientific reasoning and apply what they've learned through discussions and debates to personal decisions related to food systems, health, and the natural environment.

Growing Food includes lesson plans with helpful background information, practical teaching tips, and tools for assessment, along with student activity sheets and readings. Also included is a matrix that maps Growing Food to the National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Science Literacy.

Join us on Facebook to WIN this book & more as part of KidsGarden Month!

Download "The Producers," a FREE lesson plan from Growing Food.

The other books in the LiFE curriculum series are Farm to Table (Grades 5-6) and Choice, Control, and Change (Grades 6-8). Click Here to purchase Growing Food (256 pages, $32.95), other LiFE curriculum books & to find out for more information on all our publications.

Book Review: Books in Bloom

Susan Littlefield - Horticulturist

Books in Bloom is a unique resource for educators that presents a curriculum exploring the interconnectedness of nature through literature and botany. Co-authors Valerie Bang-Jensen and Mark Lubkowitz, professors of education and biology, respectively, at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, invite children in grades K-5 to learn about science and nature while experiencing a great story in this beautifully illustrated volume.

30-0059-BooksInBloom"Because elementary school teachers teach all subjects, they really need to be aware of looking at literature with different lenses, not just the literary elements," says Bang-Jensen. Perfect for classrooms, after-school programs, or anyone who gardens with children, each chapter of Books in Bloom focuses on an outstanding children's picture book that is widely recognized as good literature and that discusses or references plant biology. "We wanted to make sure there were books of different genres," explained Bang-Jensen. "There's fiction, nonfiction; there's poetic language in some of them – it's a broad range. There's something for everyone."

Featuring quick and easy lesson ideas, hands-on activities, and full lesson plans that relate the text to multiple disciplines, Books in Bloom provides an opportunity for anyone who reads and gardens with children to teach science through literature. In addition, reference icons clearly identify appropriate grade levels, and lists of related titles are included for alternative reading levels and connections to Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

Join us on Facebook to WIN this book & more as part of KidsGarden Month!

Download Compost Stew: An A-Z Recipe for the Earth, a FREE lesson plan from Books in Bloom.

Click Here to purchase Books in Bloom (123 pages, $29.95) & to find out for more information on all our publications.

Book Review: Math in the Garden

Susan Littlefield - Horticulturist

"During a workshop with group of teenage girls, we told them they would be working with graphs," shares Math in the Garden Project Director Jenny White. "Groans filled the room. Then we distributed plates with an array of flowers and asked them to pick an attribute and make a graph of their flowers. The attitude and enthusiasm for the activity soared. Girls began making comments that they had 'never made a real graph before' and 'this graph is really beautiful.' As they progressed to making symbolic and then abstract versions of the same graphs, one teen summed up the group's attitude when she said, 'I never knew what those "x's" meant on a graph before. Now I do.'"

Jenny was using the activity "Flowers: Graph and Graph Again" (download it below) from the curriculum guide Math in the Garden. "I have always loved math and math puzzles. I thought how wonderful it would be if we could use the beauty and enthusiasm for plants to help people get over their fears and apprehension of mathematics,” she says. A retired Associate Education Director of the UC Botanical Garden, Jenny began recruiting colleagues who were experienced curriculum developers and loved gardening and outdoor learning. Together they collaborated on a guide educators could use "to strengthen and improve mathematics understanding and skills through exploring the world of plants in their gardens."

11-3111-MathInTheGardenMath in the Garden, funded by a National Science Foundation grant, is the result of this effort. It uses a mathematical lens to take children in Grades K-8 on engaging learning explorations of the garden. Building on children’s natural curiosity and sense of fun, the 36 activities cover a wide range of topics from pattern and symmetry to measurement and geometry. They not only hone math skills, they also promote inquiry, incorporate language arts and nutrition, and encourage teamwork. All were developed to support mathematics and science standards and were extensively trial-tested nationwide by formal and informal educators.

School Programs Manager Barbara Kurland finds that the curriculum is an excellent resource for helping educators "incorporate gardening activities across the curriculum. Although the book is written to be used in an outdoor garden, "the lessons are useful to teachers even if they don't have the resources of a school garden" - a concern in urban settings.

In addition to the glowing reactions from students, Math in the Garden also garners positive feedback from teachers and administrators. Teachers tell us that their students develop real mathematical understanding as a result of this curriculum.

Join us on Facebook to WIN this book & more as part of KidsGarden Month!

Download "Flowers: Graph & Graph Again," a FREE lesson plan from Math in the Garden.

Click Here to purchase Math in the Garden (160 pages, $29.95) & to find out for more information on all our publications.

Book Review: Garden Adventures

Susan Littlefield - Horticulturist

The garden is an engaging, stimulating, and — most importantly — a fun learning environment for preschool children. Educators who use plants as teaching tools know that gardens and garden activities not only improve children’s environmental attitudes and connect them with nature; they also provide an engaging context for learning core subjects. The active, inquiry-based discovery that occurs in gardening programs makes them proven winners for educating young learners.

GardenAdventures_CoverWritten for early childhood educators, Garden Adventures: Exploring Plants with Young Children helps preschool educators incorporate gardens into early childhood classrooms and introduce young students to plant basics. This helpful guide features 16 thoughtful, hands-on activities centered on four key questions: What is a plant? Where do plants come from? How do we take care of plants? Why are plants important? All activities have been reviewed and field-tested by early childhood educators.

Each chapter also includes detailed horticultural teacher background information; interdisciplinary extension ideas, and a reproducible "family newsletter" describing an activity to complete at home to promote family involvement.

Equally suited for preschool educators who are new to gardening and those who are experienced green thumbs, these inspired lessons will let you and your young students embark on a wonderful garden learning adventure.

This self-published book was written by our very own Education Director, Sarah Pounders!

Join us on Facebook to WIN this book & more as part of KidsGarden Month!

Download "Life Cycle of a Plant," a FREE lesson plan from Garden Adventures.

Click Here to purchase Garden Adventures (96 pages, $19.95) & to find out for more information on all our publications!