Monday, November 21, 2011

Final Thoughts

From Garden 11-20-11
My classroom blog
My transparent blog

Overview of project
Students will observe, comment, model in sketch up, then build a raised bed with hoop house. The hoop house students built is a design from the University of Maine Ag Extension, but students are encouraged to suggest and implement improvements.

Why project is important and educationally significant
Currently, Brooksville Elementary has a garden including a 20’ X 20’ heated greenhouse and 8 raised beds. There is significant interest and support from the principal and several teachers are already integrating the garden into their curriculum. As teachers request more space and try to extend the planting season, we see the need to add more, insulated, raised beds. This project is important because it builds on the interest of the community and extends the season for students and teachers who are studying horticulture and it provides a model for future endeavors.
This project is educationally significant because students are working on an authentic activity. They will have the opportunity to speak to many greenhouse house owners and critique various designs. Students also learned to use hand tools, practiced measuring, and documented their work.

Measurable outcomes 
Authentic learning does not necessarily lend itself to assessment in terms that can be tied to academic standards. Instead, observations of tenacity, resilience and collaboration were more suitable to this endeavor.

Barriers and resources are addressed
Any new project presents lots of challenges. I found it similar to starting a fire. I had to gather up all the fuel and each time we went out to work on the project, supply the spark that ignited excitement.
Most of the tools I needed, I owned. One challenge was to make sure I brought what I knew I would need, anticipated the needs that might come up and, remembered to take everything home so that I had what I needed for chores at home.
Time is always a challenge. Our schedule for band and chorus creates two time slots each week that up until now were study halls for the students not participating. I re-purposed those time slots. I found that there was some push back from students, not so much because they valued the study time, but because they had become comfortable with the routine. I had different students each time and it was tricky to develop ownership of the project.
With limited tools and materials, I had to find other activities for students. Sometimes students harvested vegetables, moved fences or built compost piles. I did not have the supervision I needed and not all projects turned out quite the way I envisioned; more importantly, not all students worked safely or productively. I often found myself wondering which was more important, the supervision of many or the learning of a few. I got lucky and there were no mishaps. The picture you see is the project as it stands so far.

Next steps
As we move into winter, this project is halted. In the meanwhile, we can research plants that will thrive in the early spring, build light frames and prepare for the next planting season. Next year, I would like to move this activity into our after school programming. I believe I will have access to more supervision.
One of the things I did not accomplish was getting greenhouse owners out to speak with the students. This turned out to be partly a timing issue. Most people could not visit the school during the time frame I had. Moving this to an after school activity should make greenhouse visits easier.
I also need to consider the time involved in collaboration. On the one hand, I was somewhat successful at getting other teachers/classes involved, I did not account for the extra tasks their participation created. For instance, a class had some time to pick lettuce, but that meant that I had to use my greenhouse time slot to clean and bag the lettuce.
  Once I rethought my project, I think an organizer might have been helpful. In the future, I plan to create an organizer for materials, checklist for steps and safety considerations.

The platform for this project
I found the blog a challenge in several ways. The first, was a learning curve which we all seemed to have conquered. The many tips we received were helpful. The second issue I encountered was staying in touch with the blog. Setting up a RSS feed allowed me to monitor the blog, but eventually I started checking the blog with because I could see if there were new comments.
Despite the challenges of the blog,  I have embraced them. Blogs are wonderful ways to show pictures and communicate. The trick I think is to make sure all stakeholders can reach the blog and help them develop a habit of checking it.

1 comment:

  1. This is a common issue... keeping the blog updated and connected. I found you have to decide what is your intent for your blog. For instance, my fifth grade blogs are more about showing parents what the kids are doing. I am trying to teach them how to access and create the blog (they take the pictures that go online) while learning who can or can't be uploaded. It is a place holder for the pictures/videos. Sixth graders take the next step and have to interact with it, my quizzes are online so they have to go to the site to take them. It continues to provide pictures/videos of what they are doing. Seventh and Eight grade sites take the next step where my class is run from the blog showing what we are doing in class. We upload the kids projects (scratch and sketchup files) as well as tutorials. By Eighth grade I try to get the students to run the sites themselves. You just have to pick Why you want the blog then have it do what it needs to do NOT extra. * A personal teaching blog is very different. My main site tries to be a week in review which unfortunately does some times get behind because it is hard for me to maintain and update it all the time.

    GOOD WORK! very interesting project.... I like that you have worked through the issues that come up. Can't wait to see completed project in spring/summer.