The end of this school year is bringing a hands-on science lesson to elementary students.
It is being brought to the students by the Waupaca County University of Wisconsin-Extension office with assistance from the Waupaca Area Community Foundation and local farmers.
The foundation provided $2,000 to cover the cost of the materials for the program, said Connie Abert, who works in community youth development in the local extension office.
“We offered it to all third-grade classes in the county,” she said. “It was originally part of the Farm to School program.”
The foundation approved using a curriculum called “Got Dirt?” to teach the students about gardening, Abert said.
“The hope is that in the fall, we will connect them with a local farmer, and they will learn about harvesting vegetables in Wisconsin,” she said.
“Got Dirt?” is a statewide gardening initiative designed to increase access to fruits and vegetables through the use of school, childcare and home fruit and vegetable gardens.
“Our nutrition educator, who is part of our office, works with the fourth grade in almost all parts of the county,” Abert said. “She will be able to use those vegetables as part of the lessons.”
The vegetables Abert was referring to are the ones being planted the end of this school year by elementary students.
She was at Waupaca Learning Center last week to do the lesson with third graders.
Tara Turner, of Turners Fresh Market and Greenhouses, was invited to participate.
“It’s just a fantastic opportunity for me to get involved in the community,” Turner said after helping students plant pea and lettuce seeds.
In each of the participating communities in Waupaca County, there are local growers or community gardens, where the plants can go.
Part of the idea is to connect each community with its local growers.
In the science lab at Waupaca Learning Center, third graders created mini-greenhouses.
First, they planted the larger pea seed in a cup before then planting several, smaller lettuce seeds on top of the pea seed.
The lettuce will grow first, Abert told the students, before instructing them to place small, plastic bag on top of their cup to create a little greenhouse.
Prior to doing the planting, Abert talked to the students about the parts of a plant, different types of soil and how by measuring a seed, they can learn how deep to plant that seed.
Third-grade teacher Claire Ellie was among the teachers working with their students in the science lab on Friday, May 17.
“We usually do our plant lesson the beginning of the year. This is like a refresher course. We love it,” she said.
Abert said, ‘What we tried to do with the funds is to add to the curriculum. We have to have the content appropriate to their age.”
She said they will make sure it connects well with the Common Core Standards.
“We know in education that if we can do a continum of education and experiences, it will impact their nutritional choices,” Abert said of such programs. “We would like to continue it. We will see how the funding goes.”