Ecology and Farm to School (F2S) Lessons Now Incorporated into Science Curriculum for All Chesnut Kindergarteners

f2sThanks to a record after-school Ecology Club enrollment from our kindergarten families, and the initiative of our kindergarten teacher Master School Gardeners in Training — Ms. Hobgood and Mr. Chicoine — the kindergarten science curriculum will now feature hands-on Ecology and Farm to School lessons!

Ms. Hobgood and Mr. Chicoine have secured Ms. Williams’ support in launching these new units for all four kindergarten classes. As a result, instead of staying after school for a monthly meeting, kindergarteners now experience ecology/Farm to School fundamentals built into their daily science lessons.

Lessons throughout October include:

– Fruits and Vegetables:  Compare/contrast various fruits and vegetables; play “What Veggie Am I?” game

– Worms Help the Earth:  Support science standard on plants, using the garden to identify compost critters; Master School Gardener Christen Ramo (former Chesnut teacher and mom of a current Chesnut kindergartener) to guest teach worm unit

– Sheltering Animals:  Build a “Critter Garden” in Chesnut’s backyard using painted rocks from first Ecology Club meeting; create rock garden with hiding and burrowing places

Much thanks to Ms. Hobgood, Mr. Chicoine and Principal Williams for launching yet another creative approach to learning at Chesnut Charter!

Master School Gardeners in Training, Ginna Hobgood (K), Leah Little (2nd), Mark Chicoine (K), and Betty Sule (Counselor) present their plan for Chesnut

Master School Gardeners in Training, Ginna Hobgood (K), Leah Little (2nd), Mark Chicoine (K), and Betty Sule (Counselor) present their plan for Chesnut

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Chesnut Changers Learn the Science of Fall Colors

At our first Ecology Club meeting, Chesnut Changers were nature detectives, going on outdoor scavenger hunts. The fourth and fifth graders had leaf guides they used to identify the trees growing around our school. To prepare for our outdoor exploration, we reviewed these tree trivia facts. See if your student can tell you these answers.

Even adults might be surprised by the answer to number 6…

1. Why do we need trees to survive?

A: To make its food, trees take in carbon dioxide and put out oxygen. The more trees around your house or school, the more oxygen-rich air for you to breathe!

2. The tree trunk passes water from the roots up to the leaves. Leaves collect the sun’s energy and use it to make tree food out of water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air. Trees also put water into the air, where it becomes rain. What is this process called?

A: Photosynthesis

3. What is a tiny new tree called?

A: Seedling

4. What is a young thin tree called?

A: Sapling

5. Broad-leafed trees are deciduous, what does that mean?

A: They lose their leaves every fall and grow new leaves every spring.

6. Why do leaves change colors in the fall?

A: The color was always there, but the green that comes from chlorophyll was hiding it. As the days become shorter and cooler, the tree stops growing. As it slows down and stops photosynthesis, chlorophyll goes away, and the other leaf colors can be seen.

7. What are trees called that keep their needle-shaped leaves all year long, staying green even in the winter?

A:  Evergreen, or conifer, because they have what? Cones!

8. How can you tell how old a cut down tree was?

A: Count the rings of the exposed stump. A tree adds a new ring every year.

Fall Garden Tours and Lettuce Planting

Over the past couple weeks, all four Kindergarten classes have visited Chesnut Garden.

First Garden Leader Carissa Malone welcomed Ms. Austin’s and Ms. Huitt’s students, giving them a short tour and showing them the (soon-to-be-harvested) sweet potato vines. When she pulled a sweet potato out of the ground, they loved seeing what had been hidden under all those leaves. They were also mesmerized by the white flies that swarm off of the vines when you disturb them. Ms. Malone explained that there are many different type of bugs, some specific to a certain plant, and these are called (unsurprisingly) the Sweet Potato White Fly!

The students then planted two different kinds of lettuce. Ms. Huitt’s class planted the Romaine and Ms. Austin’s class planted the Butter Lettuce. As they sowed the seeds, many children remarked that they didn’t like lettuce. Which was followed by the remark (even by the same children who said they didn’t like it):  “I’ve never tried lettuce.” Ms. Malone told them that every time children try lettuce in the garden they like it, so they may be surprised! Ms. Austin nodded in agreement. They’ve seen it happen enough times to say that with confidence!  Each child left with a sprig of rosemary to take home.

When Mr. Chicoine’s and Ms. Hobgood’s students visited, they spent about 30 minutes talking about the plants with Ms. Malone. They tried the Stevia, rubbed and smelled the herbs, and talked about compost.  Even with nothing to plant there is always so much to see and talk about in Chesnut Garden:  lizards, cicada shells, pretty purple sweet potato flowers and the smell of freshly cut chives are just a few of the many things that caught the children’s interest.