Hannah Rickman and her third-grade classmates spent a recent afternoon in the sun feeling compost in their fingers, shoveling dirt and filling a flower bed to plant turnips, cucumbers, spinach and more.
The class and other students at Grapevine Elementary School are taking advantage of the new nature center garden tucked behind the school.
“It’s fun and I like that I get to actually do nature,” Hannah, 8, said as she shoveled dirt into a wheelbarrow.
The school established the nature center — which the students call The World of Wonder — this year with the help of a $5,000 grant from the Grapevine-Colleyville Education Foundation. The idea came from Betsy Marsh, the school’s PTA’s environmental chairwoman.
Along with filling in a garden bed, Hannah and her classmates got a hands-on lesson about successful soil for plants and the importance of compost.
While some cherished the ability to hold a worm in their hands, others were hoping their handful of soil didn’t have the wiggly creature, but all the children crowded around Marsh as she talked about how microbes and other organisms help the garden.
Bradshaw was delighted that her students, even those who sometimes have difficulties in the classroom, were excited to learn. She said that without the garden they would have done a similar experience in the science lab, which is just not the same.
“This is the ultimate engaging lesson,” she said as her students pulled a wagon full of soil. “Everybody is engaged and successful in the learning.”
Just before Bradshaw’s class showed up to learn about soil and compost, kindergartners checked on the pumpkins that have been growing and drew pictures of the now golf-ball-size gourds in their garden journals. The kindergartners have been documenting the pumpkins’ growth from seeds and join other classes that get out to the garden at least once a week.
Kindergarten teacher Lisa Spencer led the lesson, and when she asked what they learned, the children were excited to talk about ladybugs and how they controlled an aphid problem.
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“They have also had the opportunity to see which insects are harmful as well as helpful. They have been involved in every aspect of this process,” Spencer said. “They are super excited each time we observe the pumpkins and are using vocabulary that they truly understand.”
Principal Kim Blackburn said the teachers are using the garden to enhance their curriculum in ways beyond biology. She said one fifth-grade class used lettuce for a discussion about multiplication.
“This is creating skilled problem solvers,” she said in the middle of the garden. “We can reach out beyond classroom walls to provide students the opportunity to engage in real world problem solving.”