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Late 4 Morning Planning Creates Deeper Learning in First Grade Plant Study

Providing time for collaboration through the new Late 4 Morning planning time for teachers, a feature of the new 7-day schedule this year will now bring the first graders’ study of plants and their systems to life! The First Grade homeroom teachers (Jenny Griffiths, Sophy Joseph and Barbara Shindler), Director of the Greenhouse Chap Warren, Science Department Head, Jack Cooley, and Lower Division Science Teacher Jennifer Vermont-Davis were thrilled to have a common time to meet given that their teaching schedules usually overlap. Over several Late 4 Morning planning sessions, the group devised a fabulous unit that extends the study of plants in science class into the boys’ daily homeroom discussions and incorporates the new Greenhouse.
Every year, Ms. Vermont-Davis teaches a unit on plants and their systems in First Grade. This year, Mr. Warren instead kicked off the unit by visiting each of the first-grade classrooms to talk about the process of how food gets to one’s table in a big city like New York. Mr. Warren had the boys look at conventional farms and how crops originate. After a conversation in which the boys shared what they knew, he took them, by class, up to the Greenhouse to demonstrate that even in a city and at one’s school, it’s possible to grow plants that they, and other members of the community, can eat.
 
The boys observed and learned about the various growing systems in the Greenhouse. Mr. Warren explained that soil isn’t required for planting and that the hydroponics systems in the Greenhouse provide the nutrients in which the plants can grow. Each boy was given a chance to plant a seed, whether cilantro, basil, or parsley, in a substance made from coconut.
 
The lessons will continue now with the study of germination with Ms. Vermont-Davis. The plan is for the boys to visit the Greenhouse regularly throughout the unit to see how germination works and observe the various stages of a plant’s growth.
 
Ms. Vermont Davis said, “What’s wonderful about planting in our Greenhouse is that unlike with soil, we can actually see the roots in the hydroponic garden tower or the aquaponic growing systems. Before each visit, the boys will make predictions about how long it takes for a plant to germinate, then note their observations in their journals during their visits. They will measure the plants to see if their predictions are accurate. How amazing and transformative this is for these young farmer scientists!”
 
In addition to using the Greenhouse, the teaching team curated a number of books on plants for the homeroom teachers to have in their classrooms that the boys can either read on their own or have read to them by their teachers for a later discussion. The homeroom teachers are also developing different ways to incorporate plants into their curriculum.
 
“It’s exciting that the combination of all these learning opportunities will provide for a deeper understanding of plants and their systems. And, in addition to the scientific aspect of this unit, we want to explain to the boys that they can give back by bringing the plants they grow either to their homes for a meal or possibly to the All Souls food program to help feed others in the local community,” explained Ms. Vermont-Davis.
 
How wonderful to show the boys real-world examples of something in their own school! Who knows what this hands-on expanded curriculum might inspire?
 
 
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