Eighth graders are bringing new life to a corner of campus through a unique hands-on learning initiative: raised garden beds.
Students in Mr. Miller’s Earth and Beyond class spent this week clearing weeds, laying cardboard sheet mulch, and shoveling wood chips just north of the Lower School building, in the AIS Garden in honor of Sara Clark ’11. The organic gardening project was inspired by Mr. Miller’s green thumb and his summer horticulture efforts — as well as his mission to find a new, engaging way to teach Earth Sciences. “It ties into the 8th grade science curriculum by having a massive increase in the hands-on learning of geology, ecology, and sustainability,” Miller notes. “Students will be learning about biogeochemical cycles, life cycles of plants and insects, food chains and food webs, interactions between predators and prey, [and more].” Once they plant broccoli, spinach, kale, and more, students will watch firsthand as nature unfolds before them — from seed germination, to plant growth, to pest and animal interaction and life cycles.
In addition to honing students’ science skills, the project also draws on their interdisciplinary knowledge of communications and the art of filmmaking. Students will be filming and photographing their progress, creating a visual record of their work — while also providing their audience with valuable firsthand perspectives. “The purpose of this is not just to have a TV show, but also to help the girls communicate the science of the project to an audience,” Miller remarks. “If they are able to teach an audience what we are doing, then they are learning the information efficiently.” Growing public interest in science communication careers — such as “Did I Mention Invention” with Ali Ward and Bill Nye the Science Guy — opens new pathways for students interested in exploring science passions outside of research.
Perhaps most important is the level of interest that students are demonstrating, both in the project and the environment around them. Students and parents have already responded positively to this unique, community-building opportunity, and Miller is already planning for the spring — except this time, students will design and build their own gardens. “My overall philosophy is that students will care more about the environment if they are invested in it,” states Miller. It is my job not to just teach them science, but also to teach them the value of nature … and why this information matters to them.”