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Jano’s Garden: Summer is a time for learning outdoors

I hear … and I forget.

I see … and I remember

I do … and I understand

As this ancient saying suggests, most of us are better able to learn and comprehend concepts when we are actively involved with materials and phenomena.

Hands-on learning is vital in science classrooms, but manipulation of materials alone is not enough.

According to the National Gardening Association youth gardening experts, “To have significant impact on student learning, hands-on activities must be paired with opportunities to analyze and interpret observations and data, discuss with peers, and compare new information with existing beliefs.”

In a recent class at the Carlsbad Educational Foundation Summer Program, I had the pleasure of working with seven young artist/scientists as we explored the world of the outdoors in my class, “Art and Nature.” We were going outside to observe the butterfly garden and possibly collect specimens.

But before we went on our short field trip, we started with questions. Many students had visited the small schoolyard garden and noticed lots of butterflies fluttering through the plants.

And the questions began, “Why are they here?” “What are they doing in the garden?” “Can we take them home?”

We brought with us our clipboards, drawing paper and pencils to record our observations and two large plastic jars to transport our insects.

As we entered the small garden, many students observed small black-and-green caterpillars crawling on a tall plant with orange flowers. I carefully snipped off one of the branches and we sat down to observe the caterpillar.

“He’s eating!” “Look there are more everywhere!” “There’s the butterfly!” “Is she the mom?”

The questions kept coming and we carefully cut branches that housed the crawling caterpillars, and placed the branches in our jars. The students sat with their clipboards to record the plants and caterpillars, and we returned to the classroom to finish our drawings using watercolors.

Back in the classroom I read from “Wildlife Gardener, Junior Master Gardener Series,” and we located drawings of the metamorphosis of the Monarch butterfly. We talked more about the life cycle of the Monarch, and some students took home the caterpillars to observe their habits.

The activity progressed throughout the session, with not enough room here for all the details, but my point for all parents and caregivers is to go outside this summer to observe nature! Invest in a good sketchbook and a small box of watercolors and begin your journey toward creating young scientists and healthy children!

I highly recommend such programs as the Carlsbad Educational Foundation Summer Programs, www.CarlsbadEd.org/Summer, and investigating environmental programs online such as Forest Moms and Dads at Hawk Circle, www.hawkcircle.com.

This innovative project began as an educational offering from the nonprofit, whose directors, Richardo Sierra and Trista Haggerty, have created The Forest Box for Kids, filled with journals (The Birds of the Sky, The Forest and the Trees), nature crafts and skills that will expand their understanding of the natural world and their place in it. A complete description of this highly innovative program is on their Facebook page, Forest Moms and Dads at Hawk Circle.

So, take your family outside with your bug box, magnifying glass and a sketchbook and explore the great outdoors. Contact me at [email protected] for more ideas for family activities, and contact us if you have suggestions.

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and teaches art and gardening classes in North County. Contact her at [email protected] for a schedule of her upcoming classes.