First graders look for signs of fall and examine pumpkins

First graders had a great time examining pumpkins, gourds and squashes. They especially loved exploring the seeds and the process pumpkins go through from seed to pumpkin. They measured, described, and drew a pumpkin, squash or gourd and answered more scientific questions.

They also explored the gardens for signs of fall. Many students found leaves, moss, sticks, and decaying vegetables. They also learned the process a maple tree goes through from season to season. They especially found it interesting how maple sugaring happens in March. They also loved the beautiful colors we find during fall.

In the vegetable garden, they got to see what happens when you can’t get into the garden to weed all summer long. Those tiny weeds we see in June are taller than them by October!

We also looked for bugs and signs that bugs had been there. After noticing some holes in the radish leaves, we guessed that there may have been some caterpillars there. We turned over a few of the leaves, and found a caterpillar egg!

 

Thank you to all of our parent volunteers for helping to make this possible!

Second Grade Hands-on Science Program

On September 28th the second graders got to investigate some incredible plants brought by the “Plantmobile,” a visiting plant science program from Mass Horticultural Society. Mass Hort’s Director of Education, Katie Folts, presented a program on Habitats and Ecosystems to each second grade class to kick off their science curriculum

Students reviewed what plants need to grow and what makes a habitat. They observed several plants that grow in very different habitats – tropical, desert, forest, and wetland – and made a nature journal to record their observations.

Working in groups, students thought about how a plant’s shape or special features might help it to grow well in its habitat.

They learned about some incredible plant adaptations, such as tropical plants with leaves shaped to shed excess rainwater, and desert plants that store water inside their leaves and stems. Did you know that the pitcher plant traps and digests insects because it needs more nutrients than are available in wetland soils?

The second grade classes look forward to practicing their plant observation and nature journaling skills again when they visit the school gardens this fall.

Thank you to all the parent volunteers who came in to help the classes, to the Foundation for Belmont Education (FBE) for funding this visiting science program, and to Katie Folts of Mass Horticultural Society for an engaging science investigation.

3rd grade learns about plants used by the Wampanoag

This October, all of the 3rd grade classes came out to visit both gardens. To go along with their studies of the Native Americans of this area, we looked in both gardens for plants that the Wampanoag use for food and medicine.

We learned that some of the giant weeds (taller than the kids and parent volunteers!) that took over part of the vegetable garden this summer are Pigweed, which is a type of Amaranth. Amaranth is valued for its edible leaves and seeds. The seeds are very high in protein and nutrients and have been eaten for thousands of years by many, including the Wampanoag. We rubbed the flower buds between our fingers to find the tiny black and brown seeds.

We talked about how the “Three Sisters” (corn, beans, and squash) are a great combination of crops to grow. They all store well through the winter, they nutritionally complement each other, and they help each other grow.

The corn provides support for the beans, to help them get more sun and up off the ground, away from hungry animals. The large squash leaves shade the soil to prevent weeds from growing and keep water in the soil. And the beans are able to take nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil, to help fertilize the other plants.

In the Garden Classroom we found several plants used by the Wampanoag, including sage, coneflower, milkweed, bee balm, and yarrow.

Then, we picked some dried corn off of a corn cob to grind with a mortar and pestle.

Food preparation was a lot of work! With the help of everyone in the class, we would have had just enough ground corn for one batch of cornbread.

Thank you to our amazing volunteers for helping to make all of this possible: Karl Scherrer, Florence Wang, Narine van Hal, Kareem Feagin, Seetha Burtner, Harriet Wong, Liane Brecknock, and Jidong Liu.

4th Graders plant potatoes and nasturtiums

The 4th Graders explored the Garden Classroom and planted potatoes and nasturtium seeds this spring.

They planted nasturtium seeds in our herb boxes as well as in two of our our clear-sided planter boxes. They all knew that herbs are used for beauty in the garden, to attract pollinators, to flavor food, and for medicine.

The leaves, flowers, and seeds of the nasturtium are all edible. The seeds can be pickled and eaten like capers! Nasturtium have more lutein than any other edible plant, which is good for your eyes. They also contain vitamin C and were used to help with chest congestion. We talked about how the seed’s hard shell protects it from predators and moisture.

Scraping at the seed coat with sandpaper and soaking it overnight allows the water in to soften the shell, so it can germinate more quickly.

They also planted potatoes in some fabric sacks right above the garden classroom. While potatoes do form seeds in the berries that grow from the greens, we usually grow potatoes by planting actual potatoes! Roots and shoots will grow from the eyes and new potatoes will grow off of the roots.

You never want to eat a green potato, because that means it’s been exposed to sunlight. When exposed to sunlight they create a toxin called solanine. The green color is actually just chorophyll, which is not dangerous, but it gives us a clue that they must have been exposed to sunlight.

We also had fun smelling all of the herbs in the herb boxes. Check out the lemon thyme and chocolate mint!

Thank you to Jeanne Caldwell for helping with the garden visit!

3rd Graders learn about Colonial Herbs

On May 18 the third grade classes and many parent volunteers enjoyed a multi-sensory experience learning about Colonial herbs in our school Garden Classroom. 

This was a new activity during Colonial Day, a highlight of the third grade social studies curriculum.  

Experts from Mass Audubon Habitat’s Herb Study Group explained why herbs – fragrant edible plants – were so important to the Colonists, and how they were used in cooking, cleaning, and staying healthy. Students got to touch, smell and identify some important Colonial herbs, such as thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender, and mint.

Students learned that the early Colonists brought many herbal plants with them from Europe, and grew them close to their houses in a herb garden so they could easily find the herbs they needed. 

Each small group of students helped to plant and label a new herb in our school herb garden. Check out the herbs in the raised beds under the arbor – they are a feast for the senses! 

Using what they learned about herbs and their fragrance and healing properties, students selected a combination of fresh herb leaves to make their own herbal tea bag to take home. 

Thank you to the teachers and volunteers who helped plan and run the herbs activities on Colonial Day: Phyl Solomon and Edie Engel of Habitat’s Herb Study Group, Lori Anderson, Deirdre Walsh, Jim Reilly, Kim Foster, and Harriet Wong.