Growing vegetables and knowledge with vertical classroom gardens

We begin the second week of #ocsbEarth Month, celebrating plants, insects, and pollinators. Many students are well-versed in this subject because their classroom is one of 75 in our board with a vertical garden.

A vertical garden is just what it sounds like – a garden planted vertically instead of in a flat plane. Over the past few years, several of our educators have added vertical gardens to their classrooms to augment student learning. Students work together to assemble the garden structures, start the seedlings, later transplant them, and tend to the daily responsibilities of caring for the plants and the tower.

Lessons from the garden

The hands-on aspect of constructing a classroom garden engages students and can be used at any grade level to help students connect to sections of the science curriculum. These gardens are a natural starting point for lessons about soil composition, plant parts and growth, the environment, and healthy eating.

Exploring more than science

The beauty of these classroom gardens is that the lessons they produce can extend beyond science. Our educators have used their classroom gardens as a launchpad for learning in language, religion, art and math. Ms. Welch’s grade 3 class at Holy Spirit School is a prime example. A classroom garden helped them learn about plant parts, rocks and soil, composting, seed germination, and photosynthesis. However, since building their classroom garden tower, the students have also done all of the following and more:

  • They explained the garden construction process in a recount writing assignment.
  • They examined seed packets and identified all the information contained on the packet.
  • In a procedural writing assignment, they explained how to create seed starters out of toilet paper rolls.
  • Read and discuss a poem about worms.
  • Designed their worm characters for use in narrative writing and drew their character on a bookmark.
  • They wrote their version of Diary of a Worm based on the characters they each designed.
  • They researched interesting facts about worms and added them to their books.
  • They learned about the fruits of the Holy Spirit and designed seed packets for these fruits containing all the information found on a regular seed packet.
  • They discussed how they could ‘sow’ kindness and compiled a list of suggestions.
  • They practiced estimating, measuring, and predicting the length of the seedlings.
  • They designed outdoor gardens by drawing up plans and determining the amount and price of materials.
  • They calculated the cost of seed and soil purchases required for their garden designs.

If your child’s class has a classroom garden, ask them to tell you all they’ve done. You may be surprised by how much their knowledge has grown.

Fun Fact: Garden tower or tower garden?

There are two types of vertical gardens in our schools: garden towers and tower gardens. Garden towers are soil-based, with a central cylinder containing kitchen scraps and worms that create compost to fertilize the soil. Tower gardens are aeroponic. Instead of growing in soil, the plants are nourished by nutrient solution droplets sprayed on their roots. There are 25 garden towers and 50 tower gardens in 59 different OCSB schools.

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