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Growing STEM Minds Through the Growing Gardens

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Keywords: Sustainability, Collaborative Learning, African Culture, Cross-Curricular, Community, Mainstreaming
Subject(s): Information Skills, Biology, Art, Algebra, Photography, Social Studies, Video, Social Skills, Technology, Autism, Geography, Service Learning, Dyslexia, Podcasting, Science, Life Science, Special Needs, Writing, History, Reading, Math, English/Language Arts
Grades 9 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Bartram High School, Philadelphia, PA
Planned By: Robert Thomas
Original Author: Robert Thomas, Philadelphia
At Bartram High School. we have created many opportunities for students to excel in many subject areas. The catalyst for these subject areas revolves around our urban gardening. Students use many skills to create and pursue different academic goals in the gardens. This is our cross-curricular plan for the upcoming year: Common Core Goals: 1) Students will read a short story and examine the story through the lens of STEM activities. 2) Students will develop and evaluate strategies to employ engineering skills (placement on grounds, height, depth, width and shape) to build garden beds in the outdoor school areas. 3) Students will evaluate soil samples to study acidity, alkalinity, chemical presence and amount of microorganisms through science experimentation and creating hypothesis how to change soil conditions. 4) Students will hypothesize the height, growth and depth of plants in the garden and compare results through graphing and equations to examine affects of sunlight, weather conditions, amount of water in ground, pollination and other factors outdoors. 5) Students will utilize collaborative skills through learning groups which are heterogenous with both mainstream and special education students to make decisions about the amount and types of plants to be grown within our gardens. 6) Students will evaluate the history of the world and the impact of Africans coming to the United States by completing research about the culture of Africa and growing fruits and vegetables in the gardens to represent this culture and affects of the Diaspora in history.

Materials Necessary for Lesson: Laptop Carts, Cameras, Plants, Materials to Build Garden Beds, Paper for Blueprints, Printer, Soil Analysis Kits, Science Kits, Microscopes, Measuring Tapes, Soil, Literature book, Maps

Objective: Through a series of cross-curricular lessons and activities about our gardens, students will complete a through study of the culture, history, engineering concepts, science components and math equations which have evolved in the world during the last thousand years.

Activities: 1) Collaborative Learning Groups-To make decisions, determinations and hypotheses about questions surrounding the sustainability of the gardens. This will be accomplished by mainstreaming regular and special education students into these groups to bring students together as they practice positive communication and social skills.
2) Science-Students will complete a series of experiments and analysis of components which make a garden meet maximum success rates.
3) Engineering-Students will design blueprints through technology to determine size, shape, locations and access to water and other necessary materials for the garden.
4) Technology-Students will utilize laptops and computer related materials to complete research about locations identified through literature.
5) Math-Students will complete equations and graphing about the elements in the garden and how to maximize the potential of each garden bed.
6) Community Involvement-Students will partner with community members such as parents, families, neighbors and community leaders to invest in the educational involvement at our school.

Artifacts From Lessons: 1) Science Experiment Diary (completed every day with experiment results and scientific observations)
2) Blueprints of the garden beds
3) Farmers Almanac for Southwest Philadelphia-This will be created through writing activities during the cross curricular process
4) The preparation of garden beds and a diaspora garden to represent Africa and the Africans brought to America as slaves
5) A Harvest Celebration for each season with produce representing Africa and other cultures with a recipe book of pictures to represent the plants and trees in the gardens

We need many materials to continue our STEM programming which began only two years ago. The catalyst is our urban garden areas surrounding Bartram High School.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
The whole concept of our STEM activities is to create many cross-curricular lessons and activities where students can build strengths through the variety of skills utilized throughout the year long curriculum.
Follow Up Activities include surveys of students, staff and community leaders. There will also be a series of observations which will be recorded on a weekly basis. In addition, a committee of students, facilitated by one adult from each subject area, will meet on a bi-weekly basis to examine weaknesses, strengths, changes, additions and other adaptations to the activities and lessons.Final culminating activities include Harvest Celebrations, a Farmer's Almanac, a Garden Guide and the increase of produce which will be donated to families and food banks in the Southwest Philadelphia area.
Materials: Mobile Labs, Video Cameras, Flash Memory Camcorders, Flip Video, DVD Camcorder, Hi-Def Camcorder, Digital Cameras, Wildlife, Point and Shoot, Microscopes, Pen Readers, CDs and DVDs, Hard Drives, Printers, Camera/Video Accessories, Camera Bags, Flash/USB Drives, Tripods, Batteries, English/Language Arts, Reading, Literacy, Writing, Math, Elementary, Middle, High, Science, Autism
Other Items: 4 Digital Cameras, $50.00 each, total of $200.00
4 Video Cameras, $75.00 each, total of $300.00
10 Microscopes, $45.00 each, total of $450.00
3 Tripods, $30.00 each, total of $90.00
3 Printers, $50.00 each, total of $150.00
8 Software for Engineering, Science, Math and Special Education, $50.00 each, total of $400.00
2 Mobile Labs, $200.00 each, total of $400.00
10 Flash Drives, $7.00 each, total of $70.00