Today was the perfect day for a walk with clear skies and a refreshing breeze. Today, I had the opportunity to accompany approximately 120 3rd grade students from Drew Charter School as they toured the East Lake Community Learning Garden and Farm. The Learning Garden was established in 2010 in Atlanta’s East Lake neighborhood. Not only is the garden a place for neighborhood residents to grow organic produce and to participate in workshops with garden experts, but it also serves as an outdoor classroom for the East Lake children.
We were greeted at the garden by a team from the Southeastern Horticultural Society led by Mr. Khari Diop. Mr. Khari and his crew led Drew students on a tour of the garden and the farm pointing out flowering plants, various vegetation, and even mushroom logs. The Learning Garden farm manager walked the 3rd graders through the process of decomposition, and we all had the opportunity to contribute remnants from our lunch into the compost box. Students created nature journals and made pots out of recycled paper which they filled with organic soil and a seed of their choice to bring back to Drew in order to plant. The students were engaged, excited, and learned a lot about all of the elements that have come together in order to create a community garden like this one.
As Drew forges ahead in the implementation of project-based learning in their classrooms, the 3rd grade teaching team at Drew has created a project that they call “Project Green Thumb”. Today’s field trip to the garden served as the entry event to engage student interest and motivation to seek answers and solutions to a “real world” problem and question around building sustainable gardens within communities. The goal is to create a “need to know” in the hearts and minds of our 3rd graders so they will eagerly explore the answers to an essential question or problem.
Ultimately, this project will take students through an interdisciplinary learning journey with stops in language arts, science, technology, and math. Students will collaborate in groups to create and present final products including the construction of a 3rd grade aquaponics garden, presentations on Prezi of garden designs, recipe sharing, and the opportunity to sell and/or donate produce from their own garden at Drew Charter School. Through the PBL, they will discover and learn all the steps needed to create a sustainable garden for their community.
As the students and I walked down 2nd Avenue and headed back to school, I was expecting most of the kids to be exhausted, hot, and thirsty. And some were. But almost all of the 8 and 9 year olds were excited, energized, and motivated. They wanted to immediately start recording in their nature journals. They were already asking what the next steps would be and when they could get started on designing and building a garden. They were engaged, inspired, and ready to learn more. Today was a perfect day for a walk.
Written and submitted by Jane Simpkins, Center for Teaching