Exploring how to grow vegetables at school is an appropriate, fun activity for any age group. Preschoolers, early elementary learners and also middle and high school students have the opportunity to learn a variety of lessons from this project. If you are in charge of organizing the task, your primary focus must be the setup with a secondary eye on involving the students in the process.
Deciding on the Setup
Settle on the educational direction of your school vegetable garden. This project is suitable for biology, economics and art curricula. Focus on the actual tending of the garden for a biology curriculum; explore the cost of planting and maintaining the garden when compared to the projected savings of not having to purchase vegetables at the supermarket. For an art class, plant a rainbow garden that combines a wide array of colorful vegetables.
Choose vegetables with an eye on sowing and harvesting times. Opt for those you may harvest prior to summer vacation. Unless you commit to tending the school vegetable garden over summer break, it makes sense to put it to rest alongside the school year. If you sow lettuce and green onions around the beginning of April, they are ready for harvesting at the beginning of July. If you plant new potato tubers toward the end of March, you can most likely harvest potatoes by the end of June.
Decide on a growth medium. Do you have a small lot where you can install flower beds or will you rely on a container garden for your school vegetable garden? Another option is a media-free hydroponic system that consists of a number of glass jars you aerate with aquarium pumps. This method requires a reliable and consistent access to electricity to power the pumps.
Involving the Students
Define the function of the school vegetable garden. Are you planning on forming an extracurricular gardening club or is this activity part of the regular class curriculum? Will you use the produce during a community outreach program, in the school cafeteria, or will it benefit the families of the students involved in the project? These decisions influence the number and also ages of children you involve in the project.
Introduce age-appropriate curriculum lessons to accompany the hands-on activities. Bring in vegetable coloring pages for younger students. Help children understand that veggies come in a number of different colors and not just in green. Village Farms offers a coloring booklet for this purpose. Older students benefit from lesson three of the USDA's Team Nutrition curriculum that outlines a number of activities.
Encourage student participation. Make a chore list and allow each child to water, feed and visually inspect the vegetable plants for bugs. Demonstrate proper caring techniques and rotate tasks. If you choose to start a gardening club, set aside one afternoon per week during which participants commit to tending the school vegetable garden.
About this Author
Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.