This year our school garden is growing “tops,” “bottoms,” and “middles” and we have a new resident bear and hare family.
For the first time at our school, the second grade classes are taking on the role of gardeners and so we wanted to find a theme that would be engaging, fun, and a good fit for the required curriculum. After brainstorming, we decided to base the garden around the delightful book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens. If you have not read it, the book tells the tale of a crafty Hare who tricks a lazy Bear into letting his family plant and harvest crops on Bear’s land. They split the crops into tops, bottoms, or middles and the students learn about different parts of the plant we eat (and that it does not pay to be lazy).
We kicked off the garden season by reading the book and talking about all of the different parts of the plant and the life cycle of plants from a broad perspective. We then planted the garden with each class either planting a “top” (lettuce or kale), a “bottom” (carrots, radishes and beets), or a “middle” (corn – this is an experiment for us, I am hoping we have enough time in the school year to see the ears develop). We also planted a pollinator patch of flowers for our Bear to sun bathe in while he watches the Hare family hard at work.
We are following up our planting with a few classes to introduce our young gardeners to plant parts in a more in depth way and specifically talk about how different adaptations of the various parts help plants survive in their environment (this is our link back to the required curriculum). So far we have talked about the differences between tap and fibrous roots and woody and herbaceous stems. Future lesson plans include exploring how flowers characteristics help attract pollinators and how fruits and seeds are adapted to allow plants to spread their populations.
As with any new venture, we are learning as we go, but so far so good. In addition to our Tops and Bottoms garden, we also planted a larger pollinator garden, a rainbow garden with our Head Start classes, and our traditional tomato recipe gardens with our third grade classes. Whew! It has been a busy spring and with the to do list a mile long, I try to frequently remember that in our school garden the plants are not really the stars of the show. One of my favorite school garden mantras is “The most important thing we can grow in the garden is our kids.” Although our garden certainly won’t land on any magazine covers and our harvest will probably be small, it is the smiles on the faces of the kids, the new knowledge in their heads, and the joy in their hearts that I am hoping to reap from our spring garden season.
So what do you grow in your garden?
April is Kids Garden Month, and to celebrate we’re encouraging kids to share what grows in their garden! From beans to zinnias, love to cooperation, or food for a hungry friend; kid gardeners, we want to know what grows in your garden! Each week an entry will be chosen to win a prize. We can't wait to see what your kids come up with.