Liz Colwell, teacher at
Nokomis Montessori Magnet School
St Paul, MN
First, Second and Third Grades, multi-age classroom
Nokomis is a Title 1 urban public school with more than half of the families whose primary language is not English.
I teach all subjects in an integrative style, combining traditional Montessori elements with related environmental education materials and lessons. I have the added benefit of having my students for three consecutive years, enabling me to have a developmental approach toward each student. My students, largely because of the Montessori approach, tend to be hands-on in their learning and would greatly benefit from this gardening experience.
The heart of the Montessori philosophy is that children develop an imagination and appreciation of life in all its dimensions. In my classroom, studies of the continents involve learning about the biomes, and their native plants and animals. Political and biome puzzle maps, books, and other media assist student learning. I tend to spend more time on the animal world and am looking for ways to highlight the life giving power of plants. Since many of my students have little or no space in their home yards for gardening, I want to demonstrate the hydroponic method of growing vegetables. I want them to learn about the essential nutrients and participate in the gardening process. Typically in Montessori, they learn about the parts of a plant, types of leaves, and varieties of seeds and fruit. A Windowfarm would take their learning to another level, giving them ongoing direct observation experiences and opportunities to choose seeds to plant in their garden.
Since much of our school year is not during the Minnesota outdoor growing season, the hydroponic garden would afford our students greater exposure to plant growth. Active involvement in the gardening process will increase the potential that students will become gardeners. Certainly, the presence of a variety of growing plants will illustrate the terms associated with botany. For English language learners, concrete experiences positively impact learning of concepts and related vocabulary. Even more importantly, the hydoponic system will give urban students an encounter with the plant world and foster wonder about the great potential in the seeds. Any experiences I can provide that bring students into contact with life, growth, nature have an affective, behavioral impact as they feel more connected with real life and more peaceful.
My students will create plant growth logs and graphs, nonfiction picture books, and posters illustrating terms they are learning. We may do a photo journal and post it on our school website. We will incorporate observations into our “All About Today” segment of our morning meeting. Ongoing care of the plants will be incorporated into our weekly rotation of classroom jobs, demonstrating understanding of the hydroponic system. Enthusiasm and pride will be evident as a measure of successful learning.