Posts Tagged With: garden
Plant Thematic Unit
Many of you said last month’s Insect Unit was oodles of fun, so today I’m sharing the Plant Thematic Unit we’ve been exploring . It was perfect for homeschool since we are spending lots of time in the garden anyway, but its also the fun kind of unit I would have used as a kindergarten teacher to get us through the end of the school year or for summer school!
After reading about what plants need, this experiment was to observe what happens when you take something away. I bought a four-pack of flowers, cut them apart and Brett labeled them. Plant 1 was our control, Plant 2 we took away sunlight by placing it in a shoebox, Plant 3 we took away carbon dioxide (we called it “air”) by zipping it in a plastic bag, Plant 4 we took away water. Then we used these pages Plant Need Experiment Plants Need Experiment 2 to record. It worked pretty well, but the only thing that died in the ziplock bag was the flower part, so make sure your plant has one 😉
Of course we used play dough to learn plant parts! In addition to leaves, Brett also added a stigma and stamen after I took this picture, which could enrich this idea for older children, depending on how complex they made their models.
Understanding plant parts led us to a project learning about the parts of the plant we eat. I divided a paper plate into six sections. Next we cut out the center circle from Plant Parts We Eat and attached it with a brad. Then we cut pictures from garden magazines. (For free catalogs try Gurney’s, Jung’s, Burpee, or Johnny’s. They do take a few weeks to arrive. You could also print the picture of food from the Who Grew My Soup post.) The kiddos matched up the food to the plant part and glued. This became a center activity because the brad allowed the circle to spin and become a puzzle over and over!
We found this root viewer at Wal-Mart, but after opening it I think you could make one of your own by filling a quart jar with potting soil, placing seeds 1/4 of an inch from the edge of the jar, and covering outside of the jar with black construction paper and a rubber band (they need dark to grow). Simple and cheaper!
Since lap books are our new favorite thing I created a foldable book to review plant parts and what plants need. Print this Plants Have Plants Need chart and glue it onto construction paper if you like. These Plants Have Plants Need labels can be cut out and glued into place on the flaps.
Also for the lap book (or center) we made a flower petal math game. I used an advertisement refrigerator magnets to make the circle for the center and covered it with contact paper. Then I cut flower petals from cardstock and added snips of magnets. Anna made patterns or used a wipe-off marker to write the number of petals I put on her flower. Brett got two colors of petals and had to write addition problems with the marker.
To observe how seeds begin to grow we traced bean seeds and then allowed them to soak in water for a few hours. When we came back we could clearly see how the seeds had swelled and the outer paper-y layer was peeling back!
And since I was unexpectedly promoted to Sunday School teacher during this unit, here’s a bonus activity I did for church. My poor kids had way too much “plant” that week, but it was last minute!
We compared faith to a seed, planted in our hearts. Just like seeds need sunlight, air, and water our faith needs things to grow. We brainstormed ideas and they drew three they like on the rain drops; things like praying, obeying parents, going to church, reading Scriptures. Or you could just make the mobile with no pics at all :-).
And last but not least, no unit is complete without snacks!
This is “dirt” pudding; chocolate pudding mixed with crushed Oreos and layered with a few gummy worms. Sooooooo educational!
What I’ve Learned about Gardening with a Busy Family
I love feeding my family wholesome, fresh foods. Of course, boxed macaroni is still one of my kids favorite treats. If I can just balance it with meals such as from-the-garden stir-fry, well, the occasional Girl Scout cookie isn’t the end of the world. But gardening was always so time intensive! I would start with great intentions, but inevitably the whole garden plot would end in ruins by the middle of July. And then, quite by accident, I learned gardening with a busy family can actually be simpler than I had ever dreamed!
It all started with decorative raised beds I spotted online. Spring time is a farmer’s busiest time of year, so I knew better than to ask Daddy to stop putting on fertilizer or planting corn to build me garden boxes. So I printed off the plans, drove to Lowes, and built my own raised beds. They were FANTASTIC! I actually harvested something more than zucchini for almost the first time ever.
The next year my mom gave me The Square Foot Gardener for Christmas and I was hooked. I build more beds, tried new plants, canned lots for later. And I realized I’d gone from gardening because I wanted the end product to gardening because I loved the process. Instead of fighting weeds I was growing food!
So here’s what I learned:
- Use raised beds! Planting in rows is what my husband does with a tractor. I am not doing that much work by hand!
- Buy seedlings from a greenhouse. As a beginner starting with seeds that can be sown into the raised beds after last frost or buying plants can be the difference between success and burnout.
- Plant what your family already eats. Okay, if you find something you just have to try, sure, have fun. But don’t plant a bunch of kale or broccoli in your garden if you’ve never cooked with them. I grew eggplant two summers in a row before I realized all my beautiful purple veggies molded in the fridge ’cause I had no idea what to do with them!
- Plant the amount your family will eat. Two vines of acorn squash is more than enough for my family. Even if they store well. Even if the plants are cheaper than squash from the store. Even if I like sausage stuffed acorn squash. We just don’t need a whole row.
- Place your garden beds near a water source. If you have to stretch a hose over the driveway and so must wind it each morning you will NOT water your garden daily. Rain barrels are on my list for this spring. I’ll keep you up to date on how those work out for me!
- Place your beds where you notice them. Out of sight means out of mind.
- Involve your kids. Maybe not every day, but their fresh perspective keeps you fresh as well.
- Error on the side of smaller. You can always get more sweet corn from a pickup on the side of the road. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Do small the first year and add more next year.
And there you have it– everything I’ve learned about gardening with a busy family! What’s your best tip?
Organizing your New Year’s Resolutions into goals you can actually DO!
Its time! The New Year is almost here and many of us, farmers, bankers, or candle stick makers, are planning our New Year’s resolutions. And in about 45 days all that planning will account for nothing since most of us won’t stick with the goals we’ve made for more than six weeks. So today I’m going to show you a way to organize your New Year’s resolutions into goals you can actually do!
First, forget about your goals being for the “new year.” These are goals for your life! Sure, start today, but being flexible with your resolutions helps you to overcome setbacks. Instead of waiting for next January when everything heads south, just pick a date and start again.
Second, break down your goals into steps. “Get Healthy” is a great idea, but how are you going to do it? Will you diet? Exercise? Cleanse? Take vitamins?
Third, get out your calendar. I like the cheapie month-in-view from Wal-Mart, but chose what works for you and your life. Cell phone, pocket calendar, desktop, kitchen calendar, whatever! Then assign the steps to your goals to each month.
In the “notes” section of each month I wrote down a reminder of the steps to take towards my goal that month. I divided my goals into various areas of my life, such as financial, spiritual, homeschool, etc. My January goal for the farm is to research and pick out my new chicks and garden seeds. For February I plan to build covers for my current garden boxes to protect the seeds from the chickens we already have and research and pick out a breed of sheep and guard dog. In March I’ll build trellises for the garden boxes and create pens for the sheep and dog, hopefully to be added to the farm soon after. In April I’ll need a more permanent chicken coop and in May I want to purchase and set up rain barrels for both the animals and the garden. All of these steps are aiming at my big goal of “Raise More of Our Own Food.”
In the next few weeks I’ll also take you through the steps we use to organize our life, farm, homeschool, and other obligations, so stay tuned, but in the mean time I’d love to hear your ideas for New Year’s Resolutions you can actually do!