The Classroom is Sprouting

Never before has it been so critical that kids learn healthy eating habits and an appreciation for eating local, in-season, balanced diets. As we struggle to help our children get connected to the earth and the food they eat, in a world where some kids think vegetables grow in the supermarket, Reach And Teach is pleased to offer this activity based on a lesson from Healthy Foods from Healthy Soils (page 190), one of Reach And Teach's best-selling books for teachers, parents, and anyone working with kids.

In this activity, we combine the activity from The Classroom Is Sprouting with a handy classroom/home gardening kit, the Sprout House from our friends at WonderSoil.  

Goals

Observe the growth of different kinds of seeds - find similarities and differences. Herbs, beans and sprouts can be grown anywhere easily and are great to eat.

This is a mini-gardening project that engages children quickly.

Key Points

  • Sprouts, beans and herbs are fun and easy to grow anywhere
    When eaten, sprouts and beans supply more nutrients than foods many times their size!
  • Herbs can be used to make food tasty, some people use herbs as medicine, and others use them for spiritual/religious purposes.
  • Growing your own food helps you appreciate the work involved in planting, harvesting, and transporting food so that you can eat it.
  • When you research an issue, you can learn about it from many different viewpoints, especially when others around you are doing similar research.

What You'll Need

  • Planting seeds: a variety of seed types and sizes. If possible, use organic seeds! For planting, try parsley, green beans, lettuce, or basil.
  • Magnifying lenses (optional)
  • A Sprout House with soil wafers and coconut cores (each Sprout House has 12 spaces - we recommend one space per child in the classroom unless you form teams of two or three).
  • Water
  • Kids' journals (optionally you can make these from construction paper or just have the children use notebooks)
  • Digital camera (optional)

How To Do It

Step 1: Pass out a sample of seeds (for sprouting and demonstration) and allow the children to examine them. Use magnifying lenses for close examination, if desired. Ask the children:

  • Have you seen these beans/seeds before?
  • Do you know their names?
  • How many kinds of beans or seeds can you think of (pick a number and then try to name that many)
  • Where do seeds come from?
  • Do you know what food group they belong in?
  • How have you eaten beans or seeds before?
  • We're going to help make some of these seeds grow, but how do seeds help us grow?

Show a dry bean and explain that these seeds are from a bean plant. A seed is a small package with lots of stored-up energy ready to sprout. All it needs is water to start.

Next, explain that they will sprout their own seeds, make predictions, study any changes over time, and record their observations in a sprout journal. The sprout journal should have one page that shows the 12 spaces in the Sprout House, so that each child can identify the space in which he or she will place seeds.

(As an optional activity, you can create the journal using construction paper and yarn.)

Step 2: Have the students choose their seeds to sprout.

Step 3: Have each student place one core in a space in the Sprout House, add two soil wafers, add water to the wafers, and fluff up the soil once it expands. (This is a good time to explain that the core is made from coconut and can eventually be placed in soil outside or in a larger planter, discuss what is in this special soil, including worm castings and water-holding polymers, and how dehydrated soil is less expensive to transport and better for the environment than regular soil.)

Then, have each student make a hole in the soil and add the selected seed and add a little water around the seed.

Step 4: Have each student draw a picture of how their space in the Sprout House looks at this point. (Optionally you can use a digital camera to take pictures of each planter in the Sprout House.)

Ask the students for predictions of what will happen the next day. For the first night, keep the Sprout House in a dark place. After the first day, put the Sprout House near a window with plenty of sun.It may take at least three days to see any changes, but do ask the students to look at their seeds each day to note any changes. As the seeds start to sprout, ask the students:

  • Do the different types of seeds look the same?
  • Are certain types of seeds growing faster than others?
  • What parts of the seed can they identify?
  • Have the students draw the seeds/sprouts in their journals (or take digital pictures).

Step 5: Once the seeds have grown enough, ask the students what they'd like to do with them. (They can be planted in larger pots, planted outside in a school garden, taken home to be planted, etc..).

Classroom Conversations

  • What predictions did you make? How did these predictions compare with the actual results? Where some sprouts very different from others? (Some seeds might be mono-cots / one-leafed and some might be di-cots / two-leafed).
  • How does this activity relate to farming? To food?
  • If you used a variety of seeds, why did some sprout faster?
  • What role did the worm castings play in growing the seeds?
  • What would happen if you grew these seeds in extreme cold, or in total darkness, or if you used salt water instead of plain water?

Worm Castings

Kids love worms! Kids love talking about gross stuff! Part of what makes Wonder Soil work so well is that it is loaded with worm castings. So, one of the great things you can do as part of this activity or that can launch into another activity, is to introduce children to the concept of vermicomposting. Here's a quick video from Canada about worms and their castings.


Additional Resources

Reach And Teach has been putting together a comprehensive set of resources for helping to get children and adults to learn the value of growing some of their own food, introducing people to the "locovore" movement, demonstrating healthy cooking techniques, and offering alternatives to fast food. Below are just a few of the resources we recommend.

Young GardenerYoung Gardener:

We love the seasonal approach, the photos and illustrations, the wide variety of types of projects, and the overall approach this book takes. It is a wonderful introduction to the world just outside the door! The paperback version was just released at the end of 2009 and we're thrilled to have it just in time for the Bay Area Environmental Educators Resource Fair!

Stefan Buczacki combined his vast experience writing about gardening with his wife, Beverley's experience teaching youngsters in grade school, to come up with this fantastic book. Adults will love going through it with children (in fact - adults without children will also enjoy it).

 

Eddie'sGardenEddie's Garden: Watching a child's eyes light up when the first speck of green pokes through the earth..... realizing that he or she made it happen by planting something and caring for it, is a wonderful experience. In today's world, where too much of a child's food comes from the drive-through and too many of a child's experiences come through the TV, it is wonderful to have this book that sparks an interest in gardening.

The book is fun to read, with great illustrations, two very different kids (one very curious, earnest and adventuresome and the other in that everything-is-about-me toddler phase), a wonderful mom leading the way, and a grandpa who can't get over what the children have created.... are all characters we'd love to have in our lives!


Eddie's KitchenEddie's Kitchen: We simply LOVE Eddie and his little sister and hope that there will be lots more adventures with these children. We got to know them in Eddie's Garden, where Eddie learns to grow good healthy food and Lily adds excitement and wonder as she helps, and now we get to see them in action in the kitchen, cooking up a healthy storm for Grandpa's birthday. If you want to get children interested in healthy food, gardening, and cooking, Eddie and Lily make the perfect recipe.


Cook FoodCook Food: We got to hear Raj Patel speak at an event we helped organize in Palo Alto and since that time we'd been looking for ways to change our own eating/buying habits. This book is a great way to get started. Along with terrific recipes, this book also offers a sensible approach to making simple changes to lighten our footprint on the planet, be healthier, and do it without driving ourselves and our friends crazy. We especially love the way the book helps you get started by stocking your kitchen with just enough tools (pots/pans, utensils, spices, and some core ingredients) to keep you from having to run out again and again to get something missing.

More than just a rousing food manifesto and a nifty set of tools, Cook Food makes preparing tasty, wholesome meals simple and accessible for those hungry for both change and scrumptious fare. If you're used to getting your meals from a package--or the delivery guy--or if you think you don't know how to cook, this is the book for you.

If you want to eat healthier but aren't sure where to start, or if you've been reading about food politics but don't know how to bring sustainable eating practices into your everyday life, Cook Food will give you the scoop on how, while keeping your taste buds satisfied. With a conversational, do-it-yourself vibe, a practical approach to everyday cooking on a budget, and a whole bunch of animal-free recipes, Cook Food will have you cooking up a storm, tasting the difference, thinking globally and eating locally.

Lickin' The Beaters: Lickin the Beaters

When we get together with our partners at PM Press and other friends who are vegetarian/vegan, we want to cook meals that they'll love, including desserts. This terrific cookbook can help you put together some wonderful treats that will make vegetarians and vegans beg for more! We think you'll love this e-Book which you'll be able to download right after you pay. Using an e-Book can make your Green friends happy too!

Written by Siue Moffat with Illustrations by Allyson Mitchell, Daryl Vocat, Missy Kulik, Five Seventeen, Brenda Goldstein, Jonathan Culp, Joe Ollman, and Zoe Dodd.


 

Sprout House and Healthy Foods from Healthy Soils

And of course, if you'd like to purchase the book or the sprout house, click one of the links below:

 

The White House Is Sprouting

Finally, don't forget that the White House is providing terrific inspiration for people across the country to consider planting food gardens. Check out this latest video of the 2010 Winter garden being set up on the White House grounds.