Elementary School Gardens Support New Science Curriculum

By guest author, Ms. Anne Dolid, Principal – Havens Elementary School

Last summer, a wonderful new garden was created in the heart of the Havens campus.  Planned in coordination with teachers, administrators, and dedicated parent volunteers, the garden serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory, supporting and enhancing science curriculum for all 1st through 5th grade students.  The garden is also intended to: beautify the campus; provide an alternative space for students to relax, explore, and connect with nature during their free time; and promote environmental awareness and stewardship.

The first phase of the Havens garden installation includes eight raised beds for a year-round vegetable garden, as well as fruit trees, a pollinator garden, and a sensory garden for students to see, touch, smell, and taste plants from around the world.  The next phase will extend the garden with a variety of apple trees, shade trees, annuals and perennials.

All of our elementary school gardens provide many benefits and opportunities for learning.  As elementary students work in the garden observing, questioning, experimenting, and sharing their learning, they gain first-hand experience with scientific practices, techniques, and processes, and develop critical thinking skills.  The Elementary Science Specialists in Piedmont’s elementary schools have developed lessons to guide this learning for all 1st through 5th grade students who will spend time in their respective gardens on a regular basis. The lessons are aligned with the new standards for teaching science, called Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  The lessons are designed to integrate the “three dimensions of NGSS”:

  • Disciplinary Core Ideas — the core ideas and content for each grade level.
  • Science and Engineering Practices — the things that scientists do.  These practices include:  Asking Questions and Defining Problems; Developing and Using Models; Planning and Carrying Out Investigations; Analyzing and Interpreting Data; Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking; Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions; Engaging in Argument From Evidence; and Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information.
  • Cross-Cutting Concepts — the concepts that bridge different scientific disciplines and engineering.

Activities in the elementary school gardens will be highlighted in the school newsletters as a means to inform parents about the new Science standards and curriculum.  Also, students will chronicle these activities — recording their thinking, observations, data, and drawings made during visits to the garden — in sketchbooks provided by a generous grant from PAINTS.  If you would like more information about how the elementary school gardens support learning and enhance opportunities for students, please contact your site principal.

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