Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Student Lessons in the Pollinator Garden


School is back in full swing and the students are back in the gardens. 
Exploring. Observing. Planting. Learning. 


My first lesson with my new group of Junior Master Gardeners was a scavenger hunt in the pollinator garden. This was their first visit and introduction to their school gardens. The goal was to teach them to be observant gardeners, get them excited about gardening and to start a conversation about what they saw and found. Since this is a volunteer job I have more flexibility in my lesson plans and I use their comments as a guide to what we will focus on in subsequent lessons.


It is amazing how many children are afraid of bees.  One vital subject we will cover is the importance of bees. How much they depend on bees for most things they eat everyday. And how best to act if a bee is flying around them. (Stay calm!)


Butterflies excite children! 
There is something so magical about watching butterflies flutter around the garden.
Students will learn how to be good stewards of the environment and Mother Nature will reward with wonderful creatures, including butterflies, to enjoy!

Look! Two butterflies on one bloom!
Fall offers a very diverse number of butterflies so one of the first lessons we cover is the Life Cycle of Butterflies. We do a craft showing the 4 stages but the best teacher is the garden where the students get to witness the stages in real time.

Black swallowtail caterpillars in various instar stages on parsley
chrysalis on goldenrod
See how well the chrysalis camouflages in the goldenrod. 

empty chrysalis

Students observed the behaviors of the butterflies.
They learned how the butterflies keep their wing muscles warm even when resting

Buckeye resting on stepping stone
 Students learned how the colors on the butterflies wings help camouflage them and act as a warning to predators. And how they use wing shape and color to identify and impress a mate.

Buckeye on Guara (aka whirling butterflies)
Students learned how warmth and wind are factors for butterflies. The butterflies use wind to soar and drift and migrate (we are keeping our eyes open for monarchs). Our day in the garden was a little windy and the butterflies looked like they were struggling to keep their balance on the blooms.


Searching for insects is a favorite activity, especially with the boys. This is a perfect way to lead into a lesson about beneficial and pests in the garden.

Lady beetle going after aphids
And there are opportunities to discuss reproduction of the animal world.



It often happens to children
and sometimes to gardeners
that they are given gifts of value
of which they do not perceive
until much later.
~ Wayne Winterrowd

I meet with two groups of 3rd graders (40 students) on Fridays for a one hour lesson as part of their school day. In addition to gardening I incorporate math, science, art, environmental studies, literature and nutrition into the lessons. Next up is fall planting in the vegetable garden. And there is nothing that excites children more than harvesting food that they grew from seed.

30 comments:

  1. Junior Master Gardeners is a great program, so glad you are involved with it. The chrysalis on the goldenrod was a great find, am sure the kids loved finding all sorts of caterpillars and butterflies AND how cool to find a ladybug eating aphids.
    ps- I wasn't clear with my writing, I bought a new Black and Blue ...the one from VA is the one that disappeared, but I do have one now. thanks for the offer!!

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    1. The kids got SO excited when they found caterpillars! They counted them and questions where shooting out their mouths so fast. It makes me so happy to see their eagerness to learn! This group really has a keen eye. They found the chrysalis all on their own with no direction from me. I love B&B salvia. So glad that you were able to replace yours!

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  2. I once was involved with teaching inner city kids similar classes. I loved doing it. It was such a joy to introduce children to the natural world and to discover its wonders all over again through their eyes. By the way, children aren't the only ones afraid of bees. I know adults who truly believe every insect in the garden should be eliminated!

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    1. Deb, an article I recently read talked about inner city schools employing 'playground coaches' because these kids didn't know how to play, work things out, etc. on the playground. It wasn't until this year that some of these schools actually had recess time. I am sure your experience was very fulfilling and a gift to those children. Isn't it amazing how many people are afraid of bees!

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  3. Wonderful photos. You caught some great shots. Has to be fun watching the kids absorb all the information.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Thanks Cher! Yes, it is so rewarding to see kids learn and get excited about gardening. If just one of these kids has a garden when they are adults I have accomplished something!

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  4. I love your butterflies and bugs photo's!

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  5. Your students are so lucky Karin! I love your posts and learn so much every time I visit (and I'm a few years older than a 3rd grader!!). Beautiful photos again x

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    1. Thanks PJ! Doing this volunteer work has shown me why teachers do what they do. I love seeing kids apply what they have learned! Plus it warms my heart seeing them so excited about our studies and the garden.

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  6. Oh as a teacher..I miss teaching this post warmed my heart..Michelle

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it and it brought back great memories Michelle!

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  7. Karin this is wonderful. Before I left teaching to be an administrator I had plans to plant a garden at school to incorporate into lessons...iI have had many black swallowtail caterpillars but I cannot locate the chrysalis. This is just so exciting!!

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    1. Donna, there are more and more school garden being established across the country which is so great for these kids. Hands on learning is just the best teacher especially for the elementary level! Sometimes chrysalis are hard to find. The caterpillars can crawl off pretty far to find a good spot. But sometimes they don't travel far at all. Did you see my FB photos of the caterpillar on the parsley with the chrysalis the next stalk over?

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  8. Your photos are so beautiful, even the larvae which I cannot hold at all (scared) looks so pretty. I am sure the students are all excited and will be very inspired to preserve their environment. I hope they will not be future geneticists who will develop GMOs for eradicating the food of the butterflies, haha!

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    1. Andrea, we all have our fears...mine are mice (I know its crazy). This weekend I went to an Insect festival and had a tarantula crawl up my arm. It was amazingly soft and felt like someone tip toeing with socks up my arm.

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  9. We too have a similar program here that I often teach through the Master Gardeners. We have teaching gardens at the facility and also go to local parks for nature walks. The kids are fifth graders. I always have fun with the walk in the woods with the kids. They get so amazed. Some are city kids and never got out into the country. It is a nice thing you are doing. Beautiful images too.

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    1. Very cool Donna! I really enjoy the educational aspect of the MG mission. It always surprises me how many children haven't been exposed to nature. Using local parks and woods as a classroom to show them things they can see/observe everyday is great!

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  10. Marvelous macros, Karin ! Your students are lucky to have so avid a teacher !

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  11. A junior master gardener class--how fun! And you must be the perfect teacher with your extensive wildlife knowledge. Love all the butterfly shots!

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    1. Thank you! It really is rewarding to see these kids absorb and use the knowledge. Hopefully they will apply what they learn somewhere along their life journey!

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  12. I'm always learning from your blog posts! What a blast it must be teaching your junior master gardeners. One of my co-workers has a girl scout troop and she spends a lot of time with them at one of the local community gardens. High-five to you!

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    1. Thanks Theta! There are so many youth organizations that expose children to gardening, nature, outdoors which is so awesome! In this day and age it is more important than ever! I had one student that applied everything we talked about to some video game. Ugh!

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  13. What a fantastic way to introduce students to the natural world. They may have thought they were too cool to get excited by your lesson, but I bet they loved it.

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    1. Mary, the kids get so excited seeing insects and caterpillars! Fortunately, most third graders haven't developed too much of an attitude...yet!

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  14. How fun! I'll bet the kids have a ball! I love that quote - so true. And you get to plant a seed in all of these junior gardeners - what a great thing!

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  15. Thanks for great information you write it very clean. I am very lucky to get this tips from you.

    Wasp Removal

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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