Earth Day in the Garden

Celebrate Earth Day in the Garden! Here are some ideas to get your kids out of their seats and into your garden to engage with their environment this Earth Day, April 22nd.  

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Plant Sweet Potatoes

Now is the time to prepare sweet potato slips for planting, and the perfect time to introduce George Washington Carver, Jr.! Use your sweet potato experiments to familiarize your students with Dr. Carver’s plant experiments and his tireless campaign to improve the condition of the Earth and humans in his community. Plant your slips before the school year ends, with a solid plan for summer maintenance, and when your students return they’ll have a potato hunt waiting for them! Try planting purple sweet potato slips, or perhaps 2 varieties, for comparison and further experimenting. Visit the lesson Growing Sweet Potatoes like GWC and Growing Guide: Sweet Potatoes for growing tips and suggested teaching standards.

Create Goldsworthy-worthy Art!

Using Andy Goldsworthy’s work as inspiration, take your students outside to create their own temporary art sculptures, using only natural materials and spaces. These masterpieces are designed to be impermanent, so consider using a camera to capture permanent images of your students’ work. Creating original works of art using only natural materials will encourage your students to notice and appreciate the beauty, shapes, colors and textures found in their natural landscape. Perhaps a walking tour to exhibit your students’ artwork will inspire other members of your school community to view their natural environment through the artists’ lens! Learn more about Andy Goldsworthy in this brief YouTube video that captures his approach and some of his awesome sculptures. Be sure to provide your students with a variety of examples to study from his collection, to demonstrate the breadth of possibility. Consider these tips from Scholastic when introducing Goldsworthy and his unique artistic style.

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spinach hummus

Spinach Pesto Hummus: Turn your cool-weather greens into a cool and shareable dip.

Try using this recipe to turn your leafy Spring harvest into a tasty and nutrient-packed hummus spread. Use spinach, kale, or another leafy green coming out of your garden right now. Show your students that leaves are for more than salad! Consider guiding your students through hosting a hummus taste-testing station for their peers, using produce grown right there on campus. Experiment! Prepare different versions of this hummus, using a variety of greens; then poll taste testers to determine the school’s “favorite” shade of green hummus.

Repurpose Those Plastic Bottles: Build Bug Hotels

Start collecting used 20 oz. plastic drink bottles from your school community, and turn them into bug hotels for your garden. Using transparent bottles for construction, rather tin cans, will allow students to see what’s happening inside of each “room.” This repurposing activity shared by Ranger Rick offers directions that are pretty easy to follow. Before beginning your hotel design, encourage students to become familiar with some of the beneficial insects in your neighborhood they hope to host; this will guide them in selecting the materials they include in their hotels. Prior to building, be sure to familiarize your students with the critical contributions of insects in your garden.

Want a deeper dive? Present this as a design-challenge project; observe the hotels over the season(s) to determine which materials, shapes, hotel design, or other factors attract the most guests to your garden. Or, have students design hotels to attract specific species or types of bugs, after researching to determine which insects would be most beneficial for your garden.  You could also work with your class to collectively design and install a much larger bug hotel to be monitored by the group over time. Visit Untamed Science for an easy to follow guide, for a larger project.

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Create a Schoolyard Habitat

Work with the National Wildlife Federation’s guidelines to certify your garden as a Schoolyard Habitat for Wildlife. Investigate what your garden or outdoor learning lab needs to be recognized as a certified habitat for wildlife and develop a plan with students to include strategies for meeting the requirements; NWF offers a How-To-Guide and many other great resources that can help with planning and implementation to obtain certification. Ranger Rick offers great information about some common pollinators and their preferred food source.

Before you begin the certification process, be sure to explore the needs of the wildlife observed in your environment; this Project Learning Garden lesson could help start the conversation.