José is implementing two more programs for the school’s second-grade classes, one focused on raised bed gardening and the other on woodland ecology. Last week, beds were built in preparation for planting lettuce mix at the end of April. The children will also fill compost bins on planting day for application later in the season.
Students will harvest baby lettuce at the beginning of June and consume it at school lunch the following day. All facets of the program, from planting to harvest, bed maintenance and consumption will be done by the students. No synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides will be used.
The woodland ecology program will feature the sessions “Life Under a Log” and “Who’s Been Here?” In the first, students will utilize a woodland study area adjacent to the school where they will locate inhabitants of the underside of rocks and logs. Ecological concepts such as food webs, energy flow, decomposition, habitat needs, predator/prey relationships and physiological and behavioral survival adaptations and the natural history of organisms will be examined and discussed.
In “Who’s Been Here?” students become nature detectives, reading natural sign to sleuth out and solve the mysteries of animal evidence such as droppings, tracks, feathers and bones. The activity helps to sharpen skills of inquiry and observation while revealing the “hidden” presence of animals.
The programs complement the school’s reading, writing, science and math programs. According to Brennan, the school recently adopted the America’s Choice Writing Program, which teaches the craft of writing through various genre—narrative, informational, functional and response to literature.
“The students could take their outdoor classroom experience, and write about it as a narrative piece (what it meant to them personally), an informational piece (what did you learn from the experience), a functional piece (what steps did we follow) and as a response to literature piece (what did I like about the story from the pre-readings).
The reading and writing pieces will be incorporated in the second-grade projects in the spring, while math will be incorporated in the garden project as students learn to take measurements and calculate the perimeter of their garden areas.