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West Jordan Journal

Students’ Understanding Flourishes through Gardening

Aug 04, 2016 03:50PM ● By Tori La Rue

Third-grade students from Fox Hollow Elementary measure the height of the herbs they grew in their classroom during the 2015–16 school year. Jessica Louk, a French immersion teacher at the school, continues to teacher her students required science and math curriculum through gardening. – Jordan School District

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

West Jordan, Utah - Jessica Louk, a teacher at Fox Hollow Elementary School, inherited two planter boxes from a colleague when she switched classrooms at the beginning of the 2015–16 school year and decided to use the equipment offer her students engaged learning. 

“I thought, ‘If these are already going to be here, let’s tie it in and make it meaningful,’” she said. 

Louk taught required science and math curriculum to her third-grade students all year as they gardened. She explained the difference between living and nonliving things, invited her students to experiment using the scientific process and taught about units of measurement and rounding numbers—all while speaking only in French. 

“By third grade—their third year in the [language immersion] program—they know just what I am saying,” Louk said. “Sure, they learned a lot of new vocabulary with the garden, but third-graders everywhere are thrown new vocabulary all over the place.” 

When the classroom herbs were ready to be harvested, Louk took them to the cafeteria and teachers’ lounge where they gave flavor to salad bars, pastas and other dishes.

“We felt awesome eating that stuff because we grew the herbs,” Joey Naudauld, of Louk’s class, said. “Everyone from our class helped, and that made it awesome.” 

The garden project lasted all year, and the class performed several experiments with it. One planter box of herbs acted as the control group, and the students feed it with water. The other box acted as the experimental group, which they added tea, coffee and Sprite to. Every few days the students would compare the two groups by measuring the heights of the plants and the length of the leaves, rounding to the nearest unit. 

“They started to understand measurements,” Louk said. “They’d realize that an inch was too large of a measurement for a small leaf, and they would switch to centimeter. Switching units of measurement is a big concept, so that’s been really good to see that they get it.” 

The herbs that were watered with Sprite grew normally, which wasn’t surprising to 9-year-old Joey. Joey looked at the ingredients within Sprite, which he said led him to hypothesize that the plants would grow at their usual rate. 

“The basil that people put too much tea in died,” student Brielle Fountaine said. “But we learned so much about how plants grow and how much sun they need and how much water they need.” 

The program was so successful that Louk began implementing it again during the 2016–17 school year. 

“I love this program,” Principal Kevin Pullan said. “The more that we can give kids hands-on experiences, the more they will learn.”