It’s spring – finally! When the first sunny weekend arrived in early April, snow piles were still evident in most yards yet people were out in droves, relieving their pent up gardening itch. What is it that draws us to get our hands into the soil in spring? Is it our most fundamental connection with the natural world? Something that relieves stress and provides an antidote to the frantic pace of our lives? A way to get active and burn off some of the ‘energy’ we’ve stored in our bodies in winter?
The physical, emotional and cognitive benefits of gardening are enormous for adults and children. Around the world, gardening is generally incorporated into the curriculum, yet in Canada, it has been overlooked. Certainly our climate and the school calendar make school gardening a squeeze, but there’s no reason why students shouldn’t be out participating in this age-old rite of spring. Gardening connects well to the new Ontario Science and Technology curriculum, and beyond. Imagine the cross-curricular possibilities as students calculate sizes, areas and yields; test and work the soil; research vegetable varieties, growing seasons and nutrition; add compost made onsite from their lunchtime leftovers; monitor visiting pollinators, and grow early season crops that can be harvested before school ends in June (perhaps for a local food bank, or lunch program).
The lead article in this issue is a thought-provoking piece on why schools need to garden, based on an ambitious program in California. We hope that it opens a Canadian dialogue that is long overdue.
The RBG Education Team
P.S. We’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Sara McNamara of Oakville Christian School, winner of the Royal Botanical Gardens Award at the Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair. Sara’s project "'Fight The Light' The Effects of Ozone Depletion on Plant Life" was entered at the Junior level.
Nature in the News and Feature Articles
1. The School in Every Garden by A.G. Kawamura
The School in Every Garden by A.G. Kawamura is taken from Thinking Outside the Lunchbox, an essay series of the Center for Ecoliteracy, © Copyright 2008 Center for Ecoliteracy. All rights reserved. Printed with permission.
A garden in every school ... What a great idea. This is the ambitious goal of the California School Garden Network. It has received widespread support from agriculturists, environmentalists, nutritionists, and educators. This goal represents an encouraging step toward a better understanding of how closely linked we are to our food supply and to nature. More ...
2. Changes to the Life Systems Components of Ontario’s Elementary Science and Technology Curriculum
Elementary teachers are aware that the Ontario Ministry of Education released a revised version of the Science and Technology curriculum for grades 1 to 8 in December. In light of the June 2007 Shaping our Schools report (a.k.a. the Bondar Report) and the Province’s promise to implement environmental education "across the curriculum," we were keenly interested in how this would translate into new units of study. This article provides a quick overview of changes in the Understanding Life Systems strand, especially as they relate to biodiversity. More ...
A brief synopsis of each of the biodiversity related Life Systems units, including an overview, "big ideas", changes, new expectations and teaching ideas to meet these can be found at the following links:
Grade 1: Needs and Characteristics of Living Things
Grade 2: Growth and Changes in Animals
Grade 3: Growth and Changes in Plants
Grade 4: Habitats and Communities
Grade 6: Biodiversity
Grade 7: Interactions in the Environment
3. Starting Plants from Seeds
Starting seeds indoors is a great way to nurture young green thumbs, and to provide fabulous opportunities to meet a variety of expectations in the Grade 3 “Growth and Changes in Plants” unit. Not only is growing from seed economical but often it is the only way to obtain plant varieties that are not available in the local garden centres. It also gives students the opportunity to sort and classify varieties of seeds according to different properties, such as vegetables and fruit, or trees and herbs, and also allows them to predict and observe changes that occur during seed germination. More ...
Classroom Activities and Resources
1. "How I Use Plants" Collage
Students gain an appreciation of the importance of plants to humans by creating a collage that depicts the different ways they, as individuals, use plants. More ...
2. School Gardening Resources
Follow these links for additional resources and articles focusing on connecting kids and nature through gardening.
California School Garden Network features comprehensive curriculum documents and an excellent resource list, including links to downloadable pdfs of the book Gardens for Learning: Creating and Sustaining your School Garden.
Beyond a Garden in Every School links to an article by Philip Nix posted on the Center for Ecoliteracy’s website. Nix introduces the concept of “gardenizing” the school – making the garden the centre of a school, not another program or place that students are sent to.
Rethinking School Lunch: Linking Food, Culture, Health and the Environment is another publication of the Center for Ecoliteracy, and provides a visual guide that explores how an integrated curriculum and a garden-enriched school environment can enhance student understanding of personal well-being and the natural world.
Growing Little Green Thumbs is an article published by Royal Botanical Gardens that provides information for parents and teachers on the basics of gardening with kids.
3. Additional Resources
Earth Day Canada "Schools Can" Program. The program offers tips, techniques, and tools to help schools plan positive projects for Earth Day/Earth Week and all year long.
International Migratory Bird Day is May 12, and this year’s theme is Tundra to Tropics: Connecting Birds, Habitats and People. See their educator’s page for links.
International Day for Biological Diversity is May 22, focusing on Biodiversity and Agriculture. Visit their website for educator’s resources. Student resources can also be found on the IDBD site.
We welcome your questions and suggestions; email us at email@example.com.
For more on Royal Botanical Gardens educational activities please visit our website.
You have been sent this issue because you indicated that you were interested in receiving education / children’s programs information from Royal Botanical Gardens.
Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West, Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Royal Botanical Gardens
Education Programs for Educators
Curriculum-based school programs
Virtual Field Trips
Custom badge programs for Guides and Scouts
Species-at-Risk (SAR) Education Programs Curriculum-based teacher and student workshops focusing on Ontario’s SAR. Workshops available at Royal Botanical Gardens, local universities and via video conference.
Get Diggin’ Earth Day
Saturday and Sunday, April 19 and 20; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Nature Interpretative Centre, Arboretum, 20A Guelph Road, Dundas. Come out and celebrate all things green at our Earth Day event. A weekend of family fun activities that aims to educate, inspire and spread awareness, with something for everyone.
Earth Day, April 22
Earth Day School Festival
RBG Centre, April 23 and 24. Grades 4 to 6 students are invited. Details online.
Earth Day Hamilton
Saturday, April 26
1. Tim Hortons Earth Day Walk –Bayfront Park,
2. Sunoco Earth Day Community Tree Planting - Princess Point
Ontario Association for Geographic and Environmental Education
Spring 2008 Conference.
May 2, Hamilton
Migratory Bird Day, May 12
International Day for Biodiversity, May 22
Lend a Hand:
Ecosystem Volunteer Opportunities
Here’s an opportunity to work along with our experts and help restore the rich habitats of our nature sanctuaries. Fee: $10 (RBG members); $12 (non-members). You must preregister at least two weeks in advance: details and online registration at www.rbg.ca. All equipment supplied.
1. Fishway - Princess Point Cootes Preservation
Weekdays, May and June; 8:30 to 11 a.m. OR 2:30 to 5 p.m. Help our aquatic ecologists during one of our Fishway lifts.
2. RBG Bioblitz
Thursday, May 22,
7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Help us conduct a comprehensive biodiversity survey across our nature sanctuaries.
3. Marsh Planting Eco-Volunteers
Weekdays, July; 8:30 a.m. to noon; meet at RBG Centre admissions desk. Roll up your sleeves and help us plant native aquatic plants for the restoration of our wetlands.
Environment Week, June 2 to 8
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