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The Science of Growing Vegetables

Students plant vegetables
Student poses with vegetables
Students walk in field

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School: DeWitt Middle School

Class: Wayne Gottlieb's Science Class

Grade: 7

Subject: Life Science

Project: The DeWitt Garden serves as a teaching lab for seventh-grade science students to take an active role in food production for the school cafeteria - driving science inquiry, application of knowledge, and hands-on science skills. Students work in groups to plan, plant, and manage a garden plot outside of their classroom door. First, they learn about companion planting to choose crops for their plot. Learning about the chemistry and biology of soil management helps them prepare their plot for planting. Information from seed packs helps them to properly sow their crops. In order to transplant their crops at the right time, students work to understand season charts and investigate the temperature requirements for different crops in the Ithaca area. Once planted and growing, students manage their plots and work to understand mulching and pest control. Keys to the success of these experiences lie in student’s developing the abilities to work successfully in groups, be flexible problem solvers, and engage in self-evaluation to guide future work, as well as mustering lots of grit. Last year, 80 students planned and planted 46 plots, which yielded about 300 pounds of food.

Standards: New York State Science Standards, Sustainability, Human Impact on the World, Food Production, Problem-Solving, Inquiry

Service Learning: Food from the gardens is used in the DeWitt Middle School Cafeteria

Experts/Local Connections: Cornell Cooperative Extension, Local Farmer Rick Tarantelli

Fieldwork:  General Garden Management - including weeding, mulching, composting, trellis building, path maintenance, and plot management