What would YOU teach in a garden class series?

bearfat_n_beeswaxJanuary 8, 2014

Hey everyone. I'm new to the forum... excited to learn from all of your eclectic experiences and whatnot!

Quick background- I work for a restaurant here in Baltimore that donated the resources to build a beautiful 30'x44' greenhouse in the heart of the Harbor on the Living Classrooms campus.

Living Classrooms is a nonprofit that umbrellas many, many urban outreach programs, including an after school program for 2-5 graders that includes a hefty gardening/cooking/nutrition aspect! My job is essentially the ongoing donation made by the restaurant I work for, Waterfront Kitchen, to provide the educators in those areas and classes and curricula with the materials and labor needed for their lesson plans! It's kinda the best job ever.

Anyway, The restaurant is having me teach a kitchen gardening class series to TRY and offset some of the money they're spending on the donation. The greenhouse is big and beautiful and also used as a site for catered meals. I'll post photos someday soon! It's all very exciting.

I HAVE NEVER TAUGHT gardening before. The first class is just a "Preparing for the Growing Season" class. HELP ME! I'm writing handouts and coming up with lesson plans but I would REALLY appreciate some input! This is all second nature to me at this point, so I could use some outside insight on how to approach it... imagine the pupils as a mix of beginner and intermediate gardeners.. some basics, some tricks and tips people may not have thought of. Thanks!!

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Before and after soil pots illustrating importance of soil organic matter. Some pots with glass sides that show root growth would be interesting. Always ready for harvest cycling radish and lettuce beds would be popular and expand some palates (let people pick and try a leaf of non-iceberg lettuce).

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 5:08PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

Keep it simple. Strawberries grow well and are always likeable. What a great project! Wow! Flowers are always fun to grow. Give them each some seeds to plant and let them learn how to water with little watering cans. They make tools and gloves now for little ones. Potatoes are fun if you have an outdoor space.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 5:22PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I would start with the soil chemistry and basics: WHAT DO PLANTS NEED TO GROW ?
-- Nutrients (N, P, K, Ca, Mg ...)
-- soil pH
--- Moisture (water )
-- Light (Sun or artificial)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 9:36PM
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I'm a little confused. Who is taking this class (preparing for the growing season)?

If it is motivated adults, then I would focus on teaching them how to do what you do. Go over the materials you use (compost? fertilizers? seed starting mix?). Don't try to exlain everything about every material and all the theory and so-on, but just explain the general process.

Then show them how to do it, then make them do it. If they are motivated and taking the class because they are interested, they will pay attention when you talk, and you can expect them to have some patience and attention span.

But if it is 2nd-5th graders who are taking the class, that is a whole different story. You have to get them doing stuff right away or they will lose interest. I wouldn't try to teach them any theory beyond plants need three things: soil, water, and light. Get them mixing up potting mix or putting starter mix in flats or whatever you can think of. It is very easy to lose momentum, then they will start doing things that they think of themselves, then you can completely lose control of the direction of the class as you run around trying to stop kids from doing stuff you don't want them to do.

Good luck. I think you will have fun doing this.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 3:08AM
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I would teach them to accept the limitation as a gardener and try to appreciate good weather more. There is only so much a man can do for his garden. If the students are young children then show them some videos of plants growing up cause that is very fascinating imo.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 5:02AM
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Natures_Nature(5 OH)

First, I would cover basic general soil food web, different types of soils, how these soils got created in the first place, and what is in these soils. You could make a few slides on the powerpoint to cover everything in not too long.. Second, show the audience how dramatic of a change gardening took in a century or so. We went from hand, to hand tools, to horse plow, to crop dusting and genetic manipulation. Explain the pros and cons on how traditional and both modern agriculture impacts the soil food web,etc. After that, teach them how they can improve these food webs, what they can do to better themselves, compost, organic matter, maybe get i to cover crops/green manures if you have the time.. Then, teach them when/how to grow common crops in your area. I think it is very important to make new growers, especially the youth, aware of the foundation of gardening, the root of life, the soil. It's important that they understand how the organisms in the soil interact with the plant. Because once they understand that they don't need to rely on synthetic plant fertilizers and the like, it will greatly help the health of all of us.

Or, if you want an easy way out, show them this video video below.

Or here's basically text of the video.


The video/text is from a chief soil scientist at the USDA, Dr. Elaine Ingham.

Here is a link that might be useful: Great video to show the class, Soil food web

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 10:37AM
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persimmons(6b Southern Mass)

Teach about basic plant systems that helped American tribes survive before European contact -- the three sisters. They would plant patches of corn, squash/pumpkin, and beans that interacted in a mutual relationship. It produces pretty tasty crops and is proven successful. It's got a story involved that kids can be imaginative about. "The three sisters". It's also fun to see the variety of the plants that grow, and is a teaching point in itself. Cucurbits (living mulch, importance of mulch..), vining legumes (nitrogen and soil chemicals, ph, etc) and corn! (pollination, native grasses, they grow tall so it teaches kids about proportions, and most foods are made of corn, you can teach kids what corn truly is...)

There's a lot you can teach with those, but then also saving seed of any three of those plants is extremely easy so long as you originally use open pollinated, non-hybrid seed types. In the autumn, you can carve pumpkins and save the seeds to grow next year. Corn stalks are nice decoration and tillage and you have to just dry a cob to save seed. The beans are probably the simplest. Towards the end of the season, allow a few pods to remain on the bean vines until the vines are dead and the beans rattle in the pods. Then pick the pods and save the beans inside for planting next year.

I attached a link! I learned this in school when I was growing up because the town I live in has some known Native American history. The three sisters method grows perfect in my climate, and because you live further south on the coast, I imagine you should start your beans earlier or later, depending if you want early and late crops.

Here is a link that might be useful: three sisters story and instructions for growing

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 6:09PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Another way is to teach them to get into internet, Google and read. Most basic gardening info is at the tip of your fingers.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 12:27AM
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winter sowing in milk jugs

There's a forum on winter sowing here on GW to get you started or go to wintersown.org.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 11:55AM
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Pros and cons of gardening...how certain vegetable plants need certain requirements for complete success.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 4:30PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

If you want to email me I can email back all my class documents. I taught a complete class and a seed starting class and a getting more out of your existing garden class. This year I want to do a seed saving class.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 6:12PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Minnie- I would also be interested in that! Nancy

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 9:13PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Bearfat- I'm still not sure who you are teaching? Kids or their teachers?
Kids LOVE projects! During the winter months, talk about composting and have the kids start collecting UCGs, leaves, grass clippings etc. Have them build a compost system. Get the little guys some WORMS! They will love that process! Hey! Where did that melon go????? The worms ate it! WooHoo!
If it's teachers, get the parents/families involved! We had a preschool parent who was a landscape contractor provide all of the plants/labor for a lovely yard!
Call your extension office for a master gardener to help out! I haven't taken the course yet, but MGs do need to put in a certain # of hours per year. There are also school garden projects with grants out there! Nancy

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 9:26PM
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"The restaurant is having me teach a kitchen gardening class series to TRY and offset some of the money they're spending on the donation. "

How is this going to profit the restaurant?

OOOOOOOOOOOOHHH! I'm a technical writer, I've taught science, cooking, and gardening and other stuff.

My advice: skip the science and get right to the action by putting fast-growing seeds in dirt in pots, such as radishes and alyssum, some herbs known to thrive in your area herbs, such as basil, and some tomatoes because everyone likes tomatoes, and leaf lettuce and spinach.

Then you have something to tie each of the following lessons to, by relating it to THEIR plants.

Plant selection: Explain why you selected the seeds you selected, and what other plants would be growable. Explain the buy versus plant it yourself economy.

NOTE: You will have to explain seed catalog jargon. Posters would be nice for this.

NUTHER NOTE: Your classes will probably have a high proportion of people whose reading skills are low. Keep the text simple, but accurate. Short paragraphs, bullet lists, very blunt sentences. Keep the conditionals (you might, sometimes, maybe) out of the early handouts. Give them ONE method that works for your area instead of trying to expolain all the methods that might work.

Watering: How to test, best practices.

Thinning: How and why and when

Harvesting: How and when, how to extend the harvest.

Then get into site selection and preparation for THEIR growing situation, covering the common Baltimore situations and common soils.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 9:07AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I agree to some extent with lazygardener.
But the subject matter is too broad. It depend on the duration of these classes ; How many sessions? Who are the participants?

So to me you have to start with a brief introduction about plant life and soil chemistry in simple language first. Then get into a more practical aspects, like starting seeds and caring for it.

You wouldn't want to overload the information. Nowadays most people have access to internet. You can encourage hem to do some NET study if they really are serious about gardening. To me gardening is similar to swimming. You cannot teach in a classroom how to swim.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:38AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

I agree totally with lazygardens - you need to hook people immediately with something practical and hands on. Maybe a vegetable id blind tasting or something. If you start with the soil science half of them will not be back the next week.

Since the OP has not returned there's not much to go on. All ideas are speculation without more info.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 11:18AM
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