Weather won’t stop us!

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Youth Educator Lucy Herleth brought a bit of the garden inside for students to explore during a recent lesson on how plants grow.

What happens when the weather makes it challenging to take class outside and into the school garden? We bring the garden inside to class! Last week Gateway Greening Youth Educator Lucy Herleth, when faced with some of St. Louis’ recent cold and windy weather, brought the garden into the Autistic classroom at Clay Elementary School.

The plan for the day had been to work with students in the Autistic Classroom to plant peas as part of the First Peas to the Table competition. This yearly event challenges elementary students throughout St. Louis City and County to plant peas in their school garden. Although the students are competing for a variety of awards, the main goal is to see who can harvest their peas first, just like Thomas Jefferson did.

When weather changed the day’s plans Miss Lucy opted to bring the lesson inside instead, teaching students how peas grow in the garden and the different names of the plant parts through fun activities.

Author Susan Grigsby’s book, First Peas to the Table, serves as the inspiration for Gateway Greening’s annual First Peas to the Table competition for elementary students throughout St. Louis.

First, the students pretended to be itty-bitty seeds in the soil, waiting for warm weather and rain to tell us it was time to “wake up.” Then, everyone slowly began to stretch out as they began to grow stems and leaves that stretch-stretch-stretched for the sky! With everyone wide awake and ready to listen, it was time for a closer look at plant parts using real plants!

Earlier in the morning, Miss Lucy discovered that several turnips had managed to over winter in the school garden and were thriving. By harvesting a few of the turnips and bringing them indoors: leaves, stems, roots, soil and all, the students were able to apply what they had just learned from “growing like peas.” Each student explored the turnip plants, using their hands to feel the string-like root hairs and to knock on the sturdy taproot. Several ruffled the leaves and leaned in close to smell them just as we would a bouquet of fresh flowers. And once everyone had finished to explore the turnips’ outsides, the class washed and dried them so that each student could taste both roots and greens, right there in the classroom. All of the students had fun using descriptive words to tell Miss Lucy what they thought of the taste.

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Turnips overwintered in Clay Elementary’s School Garden – the perfect prop for an indoor lesson about plant parts!

The weather may not have co-operated, but that didn’t stop the students in the Autistic Classroom at Clay Elementary! They love to get hands-on and elbow deep in plants and soil just like any other kid their age, and indoor days are no exception.

Learn More:

Looking for more ways to incorporate the school garden into your lesson plan? Stop by:

  • Gateway Greening’s Workshops for Educators page to explore monthly workshops that address the challenges and opportunities represented by teaching in school gardens
  • The Gateway Greening Educators Facebook group to connect with other teachers throughout St. Louis with similar interests in school gardens
  • Check out our In the School Garden Youtube playlist for short, actionable how-to videos that are seasonally relevant.