STEM in the garden
Gardening is a great activity for learning STEM, it is also a learning tool that is appropriate for children of any age.
Gardens are great to provide multisensory learning experiences and to give preschoolers a strong foundation in basic STEM concepts. Primary school teachers can utilise gardening to expand on children’s previous knowledge and to reinforce what students are learning in class.
Here are just a few of the ways one can use gardening to support STEM-based learning in the classroom:
Science: School gardens serve as a living laboratory to explore life science, study plants and insects, learn the basics of nutrition, observe the effects of weather on plants, and learn about more advanced science topics.
Preschoolers can feel the textures of different plant leaves, play water plants, and learn a variety of basic science concepts.
Technology: Weather and soil tools often used in gardens are a great way to discuss technology with primary school students as well as machines and technology used in larger gardens, or in farming.
For younger kids, its best to remember that technology is really anything made by humans. Garden tools and other basic items are great conversation starters for how technology is used in gardens.
Engineering: Designing and building a garden bed or a compost bin is great engineering practice, and lots of fun.
Mathematics: Gardens provide a great opportunity to work with variety of math concepts for preschoolers and primary school students and to apply the knowledge to real world problems. Counting, size, shape, proportion, fractions, multiplication, etc. are all math topics that children can learn while gardening.
Onion project: If there is no the space for a full scale vegetable garden outside, you can still grow some vegetables indoors. Growing onions in water is a simple STEM project which allows children to observe the plant grow and the changes that take place over time.
Materials: onion bulb, clear glass or jar, water.
Tips: Place the onions in a clear glass or jar with the root end down. Add just enough water to the bottom of the container to cover the roots at the bottom of the bulbs and the top emerging over the surface of the water. Place the glass in a location where it will receive lots of sunlight, such as a windowsill. Keep the bulb supplied with water and allow it to grow for approximate two weeks.
Students will see the roots growing through the sides of the glass and observe the new shoots growing on the top. Advanced students can measure the height of the shoots every day and graph the height over time.