3-Day Institute prepares educators for real science in the garden with students.
We are still glowing from our three days of shared learning,
planning, and camaraderie with local partners, teachers,
after-school educators, school garden coordinators. With thanks
to our partner, Yolo Farm to Fork, who developed the article
below, we offer some initial insights from this workshop, with
more to come in the near future!
Last year, when Megan Grose’s students at Whitehead Elementary
studied a Language Arts unit about corn, they did more than read
about it. Her 5th-graders planted and grew corn in the school
garden. On another occasion, Grose taught her class engineering
skills in the school garden by assigning students to design six
garden beds. Students worked in groups to measure, find area and
volume, and build models.
This year, thanks to a new partnership, Grose’s students will not
only learn science in the garden; they’ll be doing real science.
The data they collect about birds and pollinators will help
scientists work on a variety of urgent questions about our
changing environment. With funding from the California
Department of Education, The Yolo County Office of Education
(YCOE) is partnering with Woodland Joint Unified School District
(WJUSD), UC Davis’ Center for Community and Citizen Science (The
Center), and a local nonprofit Yolo Farm to Fork (YF2F).
Together, they’ve created a professional development program for
WJUSD teachers to incorporate Next Generation Science Standards
into lesson plans set in the school garden.
The partnership launched in early August, when a pilot group of
25 WJUSD elementary teachers, after-school tutors, and volunteer
garden coordinators congregated at Whitehead Elementary to plan
science lessons with fellow educators at their grade level.
Additional opportunities will occur throughout the school year to
plan together, pilot lessons, and gain training on resources
available to support science and environmental literacy.
One key contributor to the new partnership is UC Davis’ Center
for Community and Citizen Science. A major focus of The Center’s
work is to facilitate and do research on “Youth-focused Citizen
and Community Science,” in which youth contribute to authentic
science research through data collection, and by interpreting and
sharing their findings. “Through these activities, they have the
chance to learn important skills and see themselves as people who
can do real science,” says Associate Professor Heidi Ballard, the
Center’s founder and faculty director. “In some cases they can
use what they’ve learned to take action in their communities.
Their work in the gardens can help inform decisions about their
school campus, while also contributing to nationwide scientific
research about biodiversity and global environmental change,”
says Erin Bird, a PhD candidate and environmental educator who
co-led the workshop with Dr. Ballard.
School gardens provide a perfect place for students to practice
data collection and analysis, according to Suzanne Falzone, Board
President of YF2F. The nonprofit currently supports 54 school
gardens throughout Yolo County, like the one at Whitehead
Elementary where Megan Grose’s class grew their own corn. Falzone
says YF2F’s role in the partnership is “twofold”, helping to plan
“the content and timing of the teacher training”, and “ensuring
the selected gardens are “ready” (as science labs) for teachers
to use in science instruction.”
As one of the teachers planning to participate in the
partnership, Megan Grose sees a myriad of possibilities to
demonstrate science standards in the school garden. “There are
entomology, geology, and life science implications through the
inclusion of not only flowers, but native plants”, she notes. If
the partnership succeeds, Falzone hopes it will continue to grow,
both in WJUSD and in other Yolo County school districts.