Fall is already here & school gardens are transitioning to fall! School gardens are a wonderful space teachers can give their students a break from the desk & allow them to do some exploring and learning outside. Here are a few ideas from Erin, our urban agriculture educator from EarthBites (A Rocky Mountain Education Society Project), who works with teachers and students in Vancouver school gardens. Hope some of these ideas provide you with some inspiration.
SEARCH FOR SEEDS: Many of the plants in the garden will be completing their lifecycle now. Look at the different ways and places plants produce seeds. You might find radishes, arugula and lettuces going to seed (they will shoot straight up, producing a tall stalk with smaller leaves that will flower at the tip). Many flowers will be losing their petals and revealing seed heads. Fall harvest plants like pumpkin, winter squash and beans have seeds inside that are still maturing. Look to see if some beans have already started to dry down on the plant. Some of the herbs will also have gone to seed – the cilantro plant will produce thousands of round seeds. When they are brown, they are used as the spice coriander.
TRANSITIONING TO FALL: as we are transition from summer to fall, you can use the garden to talk about seasons. Children can discuss how our distance from the equator determines our seasons, and day length in general, and how these affect growing plants in the garden. How is this different in other parts of the world closer to and farther from the equator?
LOOK FOR BUGS! As we move into fall, the soil will start cooling down, and microbial life will be less visible. Discuss how different animals deal with the transition into winter, such as hibernation or migration.
RECORD THE END OF THE HARVEST SEASON WITH DRAWINGS: Choose a plant to draw and describe where you think it is in its lifecycle. Are there still flowers that haven’t opened? Are leaves starting to brown? Is there still fruit on the plant? If this is done over multiple sessions, the students can watch and capture the process of plants going through the end of their lifecycle.
DISCUSS THE FOOD PLANTS WE TRADITIONALLY ASSOCIATE WITH THANKSGIVING. Have students research the history of the harvest and harvest celebrations around the world
GARDEN ART: Collect the last flowers and leaves, or collect fallen tree leaves in a variety of colours, and press them to make cards.
ENJOY THE LAST OF THE SUN. Take your class outside for activities like silent reading.