Confidence, Connection, and Community Through Outdoor Education
During the two-week summer learning program at Burroughs Elementary, students excitedly skipped out to the garden for FoodPrints each day. They used magnifying glasses and trowels to get a close-up look at insects in the soil, they learned how to carefully plant a seed, and each student potted their very own plant to take home at the end of the two weeks. Through the course of the program, students connected to the garden space, cultivating a sense of ownership over their school garden and confidence in their gardening skills. Students built community by working with their peers and teachers to complete important garden jobs and harvest vegetables to bring home and share with their families.
As the FoodPrints teaching assistant at Burroughs, I was able to see each students’ personal connection to the natural world by watching the lightbulbs of realizations and excitement go off in the student’s heads through our garden investigations and activities.. The ownership and sense of pride the students demonstrated fostered the ideal environment for them to try new things and become experts at tasks they had tried before and wanted to try again. Experiential learning in the garden encouraged students to be bold and brave learners, as they dug through the soil to find worms, and even picked them up to look more closely at their wiggling bodies. Students confidently made connections between classroom learning and their own experiences in their school garden observing and learning about worms.
By the end of each day, students were sharing these connections with me. Priya was questioning the plant beds, “how many seeds do we really have in the garden?” Dennis was thinking deeply about seed anatomy, “what are seeds made of?” After watering the entire garden, Love was sharing new observations, “when the water sinks down, that means the plants are drinking right?” The connections students were making in the garden to classroom learning demonstrates the power of outdoor education to foster an environment in which students gain confidence and have joyful and memorable experiences at school. Even at the end of our last day, students couldn’t wait to return. Darrell, a first-grade student, on the last day of summer programming, said, “See you tomorrow! I mean August!” eager to return to his school garden, even months away.