Okay so yesterday, in part one, we talked about the little kids, here are some ideas for the older students and a special history tie-in I’m excited to try out.
When kids reach 4th grade or so they are still really interested in doing science experiments and are ready to do them in a more organized fashion…using the scientific method. That doesn’t mean anything truly difficult, just that you are going to take what might have been a little haphazard (okay, you might not be haphazard, but I am) and give your experiments a bit more form. The scientific method is easy to teach and apply when you have a garden going and your children should be familiar with the steps.
First, you need a question. Does Miracle Gro actually help? Do sunflowers actually follow the sun? Does corn need cross-pollination to produce kernels?
Once you have a question you do some research and come up with a hypothesis or guess. Then you do an experiment to see if your guess (hypothesis) was correct. Analyze the results and come up with a conclusion. Following these simple steps gives your student practice in the methods real scientist actually use.
The garden provides a great science lab and kids can do several experiments, keep log books, and conduct research over the course of the growing season. Depending on your questions you can make experiments appropriate for any grade level.
A fun history/science tie in is to plant a Three Sisters Garden. I’d suggest checking out several websites and reading the instructions and stories if you decide to try this. A Three Sisters Garden is a method that the Native American Indians used and taught to settlers. The Indians planted the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash, together. The combination of plants helps each of them to produce fully. Corn uses a lot of nitrogen and beans produce nitrogen. Squash plants spread and provide a natural weed cover. The three also are a nutritional powerhouse when combined.
If you choose to plant a Three Sisters Garden you can tie in history with a Native American study…you can tie in literature by reading some of the legends…or science, by experimenting with the combinations. One of the experiments that would be fun would be planting with and without fish. Traditionally, the Indians placed parts of a fish in the mound that the corn was planted on to provide the fertilizer that the heavy feeding corn needed. You can plant some corn with and some without the fish to see how it works. WARNING: I’d suggest you plant with a purchased fish emulsion as actually planting with fish will encourage wildlife, attracted by the smell, to come dig up your garden.
If your student isn’t intrigued by experimenting with botany and wants a little more excitement you might want to encourage them to make a study of beneficial and harmful insects that visit your garden. They could experiment with some of the organic methods used to control these visitors. Is it true marigolds discourage certain insects from invading….or pouring hot chili oil around the border of your plot? A little time on the internet exploring with yield up lots of ideas for research.