Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Worms, flowers and bees, oh my!

Over the past two weeks in our Garden Science classes we’ve been learning about the birds and the bees (and the worms) that make plant life possible.

We kicked off our fourth week with an in-depth introduction to the newest members of the classroom—the worms! Before passing out a worm to each student, we had to review what sort of living conditions the worms were used to in their homes underground. Because the soil is moist, we decided to have a damp paper towel on our desks to keep our worms happy. Also, because worms are used to how QUIET it is underground, we agreed that we should only whisper to our neighbors (and not screech with excitement) about our observations. EW Stokes’ fourth grade class, at least, were very serious about not upsetting their worms and consistently shushed their classmates during our worm observation period.

After 10 minutes to touch and observe the worms, the classes came together to share their observations and learn worm anatomy. We reviewed the important role worms play in the garden—breaking down scraps of food (organic matter) into nutrients that the plants can use to grow.

Every week a group of students will be responsible for feeding the worms. The worm bins will stay in the classrooms through the spring, providing compost for the school gardens. When the classes come out to visit the Washington Youth Garden in May, the worms will finally return home from their extended field trip.

Last week, we shifted our focus from decomposers to pollinators. Before jumping into the details of flower parts, we reviewed the plant life-cycle and how plants go about making new plants. We learned that in order for the new seed (hidden in the flower) to be ready to make a new plant, it has to be pollinated. This is where trusted pollinator friends (bees, butterflies, bats, flies, etc.) come into play. Only once the pollen goes down to meet the new seed, will the plant get the signal to make a fruit. Most students had no idea that fruits are just a clever way for plants to spread their seeds. Kacie broke it to the students that every time we eat a watermelon and spit out the seeds we are participating in a very tasty trick! To learn more about the process of pollination, students dissected lily flowers and learned all about bees from Toni, the WYG beekeeper. Before closing the lesson, we all said a big “Thank you!” to the bees who pollinate one out of every three bites of food we eat.

Thank you worms! Thank you bees!

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