Prepare for Spring!

January 06, 2012 | 12:01 pm

It may not look like it outside, but Spring will be here before you know it.  Before the beautiful weather begins, use the last few indoor months to plan and prepare for your meaningful lessons on plant and soil science.  First, book a field trip to a local garden or nursery and visit the Smithsonian Education field trip webpage to gain insight into making your field trip more meaningful.  Next, provide early activities about plant and soil science inside the classroom to make later outdoor activities more meaningful.  In the [Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century elementary][link to] curriculum, lesson 5’s “How Does Your Garden Grow” encourages students to use what they have previously learned about soils, plants, and the environment to plan a garden.  After completing this lesson, students will be able to plan a garden that is appropriate for their area; explain how understanding a plant’s needs is important for a successful garden; and explain how plants require nutrients they obtain from the soil and how fertilizers can replace lost nutrients.  Keeping in mind the many requirements teachers must meet, this curriculum was developed so that teachers can select the lessons that most easily fit into their schedule, or they may easily choose to teach all five lessons if they have time.  To request our Smithsonian-reviewed curriculum, visit

Finally, Master Gardener Dee McKenna also suggests taking soil samples as a pre-Spring activity and discussing the result as a class.  You can read more about soil testing in Dee’s gardening blog. Do you want to try something new this year in your classroom garden?  When space is limited, get creative and go vertical with vine crops, such as beans, cucumbers, and even melons.  Many of these plants can be grown vertically on a trellis to not only save space but also provide interest and ease of care and harvesting.  Creating a tunnel of vines where fruit hang overhead on a teepee structure with beans and morning glories is fun as well as educational.  Make sure you build any structure strong enough to handle the added weight of the vine, fruit, and anchored to withstand winds.  And remember, parents are the key to maintaining a beautiful classroom garden.  From chaperoning field trips to building a trellis to helping water the garden during the summer, parents can help you from over-extending yourself. So start planning your garden with your students now and reap the rewards in Spring!