John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.
Someone once said that 'working in a garden is like digging knowledge from the Earth.' As our planet becomes more and more crowded and our precious resources dwindle, it is of exigent concern we teach our students about horticulture and its value to all living creatures. Your middle and high schoolers will benefit from these three useful horticultural projects, as they work together to analyze old ideas and create new ideas.
Attention - always keep a bee sting kit handy in case a student is stung while gardening.
Start a School Garden
- While reading about plants and learning their names and related characteristics is nice, nothing is a substitute for getting your hands dirty and growing your own plants. For this ongoing project, your students will create their very own gardens.
Materials: online access, paper, soil, textbooks, various items to use as planters, various plants and seeds, water, writing instruments
- Since most teachers and school systems don't have large budgets for plants and planters, it is imperative to be creative and use available materials. Inexpensive ideas could include:
- Cleaning old tires to paint and then potting plants inside them
- Painting fence slats to look like people
- Bucket gardens
- Stackable gardens
- Vertical gardens
- Cinder block tomatoes
Note - make sure your rows are fairly narrow, so students can reach all the way across them. Also, make sure the spacing between rows is fairly wide, so your students don't step on the plants.
Easiest Plants to Grow
Don't discourage your students with plants that might easily die. While there exists no guarantee, easier plants to grow include:
- Cherry Tomatoes
Bird-Friendly Plants and Butterfly-Friendly Plants
Herbs such as fennel, oregano, parsley, and thyme are easy to grow. They often attract bees and butterflies to the garden.
Advanced - consider adding composting bins and earthworms to your garden project.
Each state has native plants, and they tend to have a higher survival rate than non-native plants.
- Have your students work in small groups to write five-minute skits in which they educate others on the importance of starting and maintaining a school garden.
- Have your students create three-minute educational videos they can post online explaining the benefits of a school garden.
Optional - many teachers are not aware they can actually apply for school garden grants. You and your students can go online to explore the many opportunities to receive funding for your school garden.
Discussion Question: If every school in your country had a garden, how would that change problems with food costs and food waste?
Horticulture Large Wall Mural
- A mural featuring dozens of different plant species will not only be educational, but will also liven up your room.
Materials: books featuring various plants; colored markers, pens, and pencils; roll of large mural paper; online capability; scissors; tape
- Allow your students to look in their books or go online to find some pictures of their favorite plants. While they are doing this, you can tape the mural to the walls of your room.
- Now allow your students to draw on the mural.
- Also have each student write two-page papers detailing the different types of plants such as trees, shrubs, ferns, mosses, algae, and other plants.
- In addition, have your students create true or false, multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blank quizzes about horticulture, and have them exchange them with one another.
Optional - allow your students to film the mural as it changes over the course of several weeks, and post the videos online for other students to view.
Discussion Question: Which plant looks best when it is drawn on a mural? Why?
Grow Plants from Kitchen Scraps
- Did you know that people waste a disgusting 30% of all food worldwide, and that the total of 40% in America is even worse? Meanwhile, world population has ballooned to over seven billion people, many of whom literally starve to death.
- In this project, your students will not only learn how to grow food from kitchen scraps, but also learn to appreciate the value of not wasting precious food.
Materials: avocado pits, citrus seeds, planters (various shapes and sizes), plastic wrap, scraps of various fruits and vegetables, shallow dishes, soil, toothpicks, water
Note - it helps to store all seeds and pits in a zippered plastic bag with a damp napkin to keep them moist until used for the project. Also, don't use apple seeds and peach pits, as they are poisonous.
- Students will love this one! Place three to five toothpicks evenly spaced on a cleaned avocado pit, and then support the pit on a glass of water. The water should only be high enough to touch the bottom half of the pit. When the pit sprouts, place it in soil, with the soil only covering the bottom half.
- Have your students plant their seeds in containers about one-half to no more than one inch in depth. Cover the entire container with the plastic wrap until germination takes place.
Easy vegetables to grow from scraps include:
- Ginger root
- Romaine lettuce
With these vegetables, the trick is to cut off most of the plant until only about the top inch remains. Then place them in your shallow dishes so the water covers the roots only. When they show new growth, transfer them to soil, with only the roots covered.
- Now have your students keep weekly journals documenting and describing their projects.
- Next have them create posters which show the benefits of growing plants from scraps.
Discussion Question: What is the best way for your students to teach fellow students and adults about the importance of not wasting food?
All 50 states and eight Canadian provinces have Master Gardener programs. Invite a Master Gardener to visit your students and further explain about the many benefits of as well as related careers in horticulture.
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