How to Grow a School Garden that Engages Students
Teachers: would you like to better engage your class, bring life to your lesson plans, increase attendance, or improve student performance? Do you seek to inspire and excite—in addition to educate—and encourage healthy habits in your classroom?
Lately, I’ve been seeing several articles and social media posts about teachers accomplishing these goals by creatively using Tower Garden in the classroom. And why not? It makes perfect sense.
As Global Teacher Prize Finalist Stephen Ritz says about Tower Garden, “It is the most cost-effective school garden aligned to academic outcomes one can ever imagine.”
Ritz, who has championed the use of Tower Garden in the classroom, says teachers can use it for a variety of subjects, including science, math, literacy and even art. But academic alignment isn’t the only benefit.
Research shows that gardening encourages children to eat healthier. And classes have been using Tower Garden to grow food to stock the school cafeteria, donate to the community, and even sell to local restaurants.
And—now that Tower Garden has partnered with the Buck Institute for Education to develop a Gold Standard Project Based Learning project—there’s never been a better time to teach students with Tower Garden.
Using Tower Garden in schools is about more than academia (via @GreenBXMachine on Twitter).
The Case for Tower Garden in the Classroom
Are you wondering whether Tower Garden is a good fit for your classroom? (Or do you need a little help convincing someone else?)
Here are 5 reasons Tower Garden is a great teaching tool:
- You’ll grow more in less time and with fewer resources. Tower Garden uses aeroponic technology, which—compared to soil gardening—has been shown to increase yields by as much as 30% and triple the speed of plant growth, while using only 10% of the water and space.
- You can grow inside the classroom. Grow lights allow you to garden indoors all school year long, which means bodies (and minds) don’t have to leave your learning environment to grow.
- You’ll have less mess. Compared to traditional gardening, there’s less hassle and cleanup with Tower Garden, because it doesn’t use soil.
- You can move it wherever learning is happening. With the dolly, you can wheel Tower Garden from the classroom to the cafeteria to the playground—and pretty much anywhere else your students are!
- You’ll get growing support. Instructional videos, growing guides, FAQs—the Tower Garden Resource Center is packed with useful information (as is this blog). Plus, Customer Service is always a call away, happy to help troubleshoot any problem you might have.
Still not sure? It may help to know you’re in good company. Here’s what a few teachers shared with Tower Garden on Facebook recently:
“I have seen firsthand, with the Tower Garden in my classroom, what it does for children. They are more eager to try vegetables. It gives them ownership of their food. Once they know how to grow food, they will not go hungry.” – Diana
“My students love to taste vegetables and herbs from the Tower Garden in our classroom.” – Shemaiah
“Our Junior Kindergartners love how fast their seeds pop up in the magic soil, and then how quickly they get to eat the vegetables they grow in their lunches together at school. How great it is to learn so early that we can easily grow the really nutritious and delicious foods our bodies need to be strong and healthy!” – Meg
“I love teaching third grade science, and we love our Tower Garden…We've already applied for a school salad bar to use our fresh produce!” – Julianne
This project encourages 6th and 7th graders to observe plants grown in soil and in Tower Garden.
Top Tools and Tips for Tower Garden Teachers
Ready to get your class growing? Start with these resources:
Tower Garden Challenge: Classroom Project
Partnering with the Buck Institute for Education, Tower Garden has developed a Gold Standard Project Based Learning project. This CCSS- and NGSS-aligned project teaches 6th and 7th graders about science and math as they experiment and observe plants grown in soil and in Tower Garden. Download this free school garden project »
Resource Center: Instructional Videos, Growing Guides and More
Whether you’re setting up the class Tower Garden or harvesting lettuce for students’ lunches, the Tower Garden Resource Center offers lots of helpful information.
Gardening Blog: Timely Growing Tips, Plant Information and More
Since you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’re already somewhat familiar with the Tower Garden blog! But I do want to call out a few specific posts that may be helpful when growing in a classroom setting:
- Plan Your Perfect Tower Garden
- Learn the Essentials of Indoor Gardening
- Naturally Control Garden Pests
- Prevent Common Plant Diseases
Social Media: Support from the Similar-Minded
Want ideas for how you can best leverage Tower Garden in your classroom? Discover what techniques have worked well for other Tower Garden teachers by connecting with them on:
- Facebook. I often see teachers sharing stories on the Tower Garden Facebook Page. Consider joining the conversation there.
- Twitter. Tower Garden started a list of green-thumbed teachers you can subscribe to on Twitter. If you’d like to be added to the list, just Tweet your request at @TowerGarden.
- Instagram. Tower Garden often reposts examples Tower Garden in schools on Instagram.
I encourage you to also seek support from your local community. I’ve heard of several instances where local businesses donated funds to help schools purchase Tower Gardens.
Engage, inspire and excite your students with Tower Garden.
More School Gardening Resources to Come
This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more advice on how you can incorporate Tower Garden in your classroom and curriculum.
And in the meantime, please leave a comment and let me know: Are you growing a classroom Tower Garden? What are your challenges? What resources would help you be more successful?
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