by Jean Skaane, Bell School Garden Coordinator
It was another beautiful fall in the Bell gardens and outdoor classroom space, even amidst the rainy days that seemed to regularly fall on my days with Mrs. Spillane’s Kindergarten class! Exploring and enjoying the outdoors through various weather patterns is fun for the kids, and it opens their eyes to how plants, insects and other living creatures adapt.
Kindergarteners laughed through many literacy-based lessons —a couple favorites — Sylvia’s Spinach and Sophie’s Squash. We took the Sophie’s Squash lesson to new lengths this year with one class doing exactly what the storybook character, Sylvia, does: we buried the class squash, “Sparkles”; made a sign to mark her spot; and predicted what we would find in the spring after she decomposed! Yes, Kindergartners know all about decomposing vegetables!
Many First Grade classes let their creative energy flow designing, creating, and presenting habitats for a garden creature of their choosing! After talking about the many living creatures that call the Bell Garden their habitat (foxes, turkeys, raccoons, birds, worms, rolley-polleys and so many more), the children were shown a variety of recycled materials they would use to create a habitat, and then they were set free to create! It was difficult to bring this activity to a close. The children were engaged —and many who may not always find the garden to be their cup of tea. This was exciting. The presentations were adorable, detailed, and spoken with pride!
Second Grade embarked on a 5-part lesson and a favorite of mine…ALL THINGS WORMS! You may not realize how many worm experts we have within the Bell Community! The kids learned and experienced building a “worm hotel” (to observe worm’s role as recyclers of our food scraps) and a “worm skyscraper” (to observe worm’s tunneling capabilities that provide water and oxygen to plant roots). They learned about worm’s body parts and experimented with the worm’s sense of smell (worms don’t have noses but do have sensory capabilities through their skin). The kids took to writing about their worms, and ultimately putting them into the garden —their natural habitat —to do their very important job of improving the quality of our soil.
A Third Grade class learned about cover crops and the value they provide to a garden (nutrients for the soil) that is being “put to bed” for the winter, and then planted a variety of seeds: crimson clover, winter rye, hairy vetch, and tilling radish.
Although the cold weather has set-in, stay tuned for information about 2nd Graders working, playing and learning with Change is Simple (http://www.changeissimple.org/), an environmental education group out of Beverly. We are thrilled to have received a grant from the Friends’ of the Marblehead Public Schools for a 3-part workshop that will begin in March.
Thank you for the opportunity to learn and explore with your children! Warm regards, Jean