Getting’ Dirty

Here’s a short and sweet lesson on soil and composting! This can be adapted well from 2nd grade all the way through high school, depending on how much students already know.

Start with the Earth Apple activity, which sets some great context for how little topsoil we have on Earth that we can actually grow food in. Then, ask students what they already know about the process of decomposition. Most students in upper elementary school will be familiar with the terms ‘producers’ (plants), ‘consumers’ (animals), and ‘decomposers’ (fungus, bacteria, invertebrates!). Explain that composting is just intentionally applying the natural process of decomposition to create soil more quickly from your food and garden scraps. Sing the ‘Compost Cake’ song from the Banana Slug String Band with younger students, to drive the point home. For older students, have them make short skits about how compost is created– it is hilarious to watch them pile on top of each other to simulate the compost pile.

Now that they know everything there is to know about compost, have students venture to your compost pile and use this worksheet to examine which organisms they are able to find. They are sure to find some truly creepy crawly bugs and gain a new appreciation for the ecosystem of living things in soil.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 12.39.10 PM
For a boost in student engagement for an older class, introduce the idea of composting toilets! Host a debate– should we or shouldn’t we close the loop and start recycling our own waste to make soil? Actually, we wouldn’t be starting that practice– here’s a great article on the awesome ‘night soil’ dispersal systems the Chinese developed thousands of years ago.
-Ms. Carolyn, Educator

Earth Day at Clay

We celebrated Earth Day at Clay this week by learning about trees. In the words of one of our students, “Trees help keep the earth clean!”

fenton planting trees3

We learned how to figure out how old a tree is by counting the rings in a stump, and we made leaf rubbings with different types of tree leaves. When I demonstrated how to make a leaf rubbing, all the kids ooohed and aaaahed as the leaf ‘magically’ appeared on the page.

sharpe leaf rubbings in the fieldsharpe leaf rubbing2

We finished it off by planting a few trees around the garden. It takes a group of kids under 8 a loooong time to dig a hole for a tree– we had to stop and admire every worm.

-Ms. Carolyn, Gateway Greening Educatorsharpe leaf rubbing3fenton planting trees

A Letter to Gateway Greening from Mallinckrodt Academy

Mallinckrodt2Gateway Greening…

Mallinckrodt Academy would like to express how happy we are to have a partnership with Gateway Greening.   Our outdoor garden space is an extension of the classroom where students and teachers have the opportunity to explore nature through all the four seasons and have a great time doing so.


This school year we’ve started some new initiatives and our outdoor garden space fits in beautifully. We’ve also had a number of environmental activities that work well with our outdoor space. KidsGROW, a Fontbonne University led program, brought in volunteers who created hands-on activities to help students understand the importance of a healthy diet. We have also created an after school garden club were students have an opportunity to learn about several different components of Earth Science. It is also very common to see our students, teachers, and parent volunteers outside enjoying our space.  Mallinckrodt3

None of these activities/programs would be possible without our number one fan, parent, and Gateway Greening Educator, Mrs. Punita Patel. She is incredible! She has created a wonderful and positive buzz within our school and has provided tremendous support to our Mallinckrodt team. Gateway Greening has been a wonderful addition to our school community.

-DeAndre Thomas, Principal