How can you get fifth graders excited about writing essays, taking tests and eating salad? By using a Victory Garden as a learning tool, bugs and all. On a Monday this spring, some Acworth students enjoyed the fruits of their labors with a harvest and snack of produce from the gardens.
Ford Elementary School developed a lesson plan around the Victory Garden concept to meet the Georgia Curriculum Standards. The project integrates social studies, math, history, and literature (with a little bit of science by osmosis). Each fifth grade class was assigned four raised beds. The students estimated the volume of soil, divided the garden into square foot sections and studied the planting times to harvest produce in a 12 week growing period. They drew plots that allowed room for the fully grown plants, and wrote essays and poems on related topics.
They read and discussed a story about a Victory Garden, studied the stock market crash, the Great Depression, World War II and Roosevelt’s New Deal. They gained a greater understanding and appreciation for patriotism, suffering, and sacrifice by studying the articles and advertisements from the period, which encouraged people to grow and preserve their own food and share with those less fortunate.
On harvest day, with assistance from Captain Planet Foundation interns, each class analyzed what grew well, what didn’t, and why. The students looked at pest damage and tried to figure out what type of insects had feasted on the leaves. They picked produce that was ready, cleaned lettuce and cabbage leaves for compost, washed the pickings, then had a salad feast. At the beginning of the project, one student voiced her disgust with planting spinach, but on harvest day, she truly enjoyed her salad. “I’ll ask my mom to make fresh spinach salad,” someone overheard her saying. (Does it get much better than that?)
Drinks were made with cold water flavored with lemon, strawberries and mint. No sugar. No carbonation. They loved it. They also loved the lightly sauteed radishes, and made their own herb and spice mixtures using dried basil and parsley from the gardens.
One parent volunteer remarked that she was from New York and had never seen a produce garden. “My daughter has been so excited about this,” she said, “I just had to come see for myself. It’s amazing.” (I guess it can get better.)
The project will be evaluated and refined for next year’s crop of fifth graders.