Yesterday, I led my new group of garden club students through a lesson in which they had to videotape me. One of my graduate courses is requiring that I be recorded while conducting a micro lesson on place as part of an assignment. The course is Place Based Education – Strategies for Teaching. For the last 14 years, I have conducted my lessons using Place Based Education. I was so looking forward to actually having a course on something I felt I knew and was already doing. Unfortunately, the course has been more of a chore than a source of enlightenment. One credit packed into four weeks. I considered dropping it more than once. But, now we are in week three and last week, as I struggled to complete another assignment, I decided I just should finish the course and be done with it.
The final assignment is to create a micro lesson using place based education, implement the lesson, and be taped doing so. Many ideas for my lesson have come and gone. I even reserved a room at our public library thinking I could conduct a session on one of our local natural treasures like the sand prairie, our grasslands, the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, or even the buildings in our rapidly growing town. But, I realized I was blowing the assignment up to be much larger than it had to be. I needed to scale down.
When I considered all things, I settled on our own garden beds at the internationally themed elementary school where I am the garden club advisor. Along with plants representing France, Germany, Russia, China, Norway, and others, we have a certified Monarch Way Station. We have common milkweed. This is a plant native to our area of the country and one about which I am very knowledgable. Since I was new to this school in October, I was unsure as to how much knowledge the students at this school have about the large gardens that grace over 200 feet along one side of the building. I knew that I was unsure about what plants were in the gardens and why they were there. I was given a folder of “garden information” when I was hired. There were maps of the garden beds but they are 10 years old – the original renderings. I thought that having the children measure and map the beds with me would be a good activity to start our place based lesson. I could have one of the students record me. I sought permission from all the students’ parents for the taping. And then, it snowed. I mean, really snowed! We got at least six inches over night – more snowfall from one storm than we’ve had in a while!
My lesson changed. As I made adjustments to it yesterday, I decided to focus on the milkweed as a native prairie plant. I had milkweed seeds. We planted them. We talked about the gardens at our school. As I thought, the students did not know much about them, nor had they spent a great deal of time in the garden. Still, they acknowledged its importance. At the end, I gave an assignment for them each to research one plant I know to be in the gardens at this school. I saw the plants I assigned growing in the gardens this fall. The major piece of information to be gleaned, was not growing requirements, but nativity. I have two third graders, a second grader, and two fifth graders in the group this year. It will be interesting to see how they do with the assignment.
As far as my place based lesson, it went fine. It was not ideal, and nowhere near my best. I will be able to reflect on that as part of my assignment. But, today I am looking forward to checking out how they did as videographers. They all enjoyed it and demanded to have a turn. I am sure I will laugh as I look at myself through a rare lens – that of the camera.
One thing is certain and it is that we need to utilize the gardens at this internationally themed elementary school more than they are now. Yes, they are very pretty. But, they need to be useful too. The students need to know more about the plants, the themes, and how to care for the space. One of my goals is to make that happen.