A Penny for your Green Beans

When I was about seven years old, one of my favorite Saturday activities was to collect all of the “extra” produce from the family garden with my younger brother, load it up in the Red Flyer wagon, and walk from door to door, running what I would now recognize as a mini mobile farmer’s market. At the time, having never encountered a farmer’s market, my brother and I just called it “selling.” We carefully counted out green beans - a penny for one – and eagerly accepted the neighbors’ quarters for the giant zucchini that dad had happily donated to the cause. We added up the proceeds. We were going to be rich! We felt innovative, independent, and productive. And we were practicing math without realizing it.
Coincidentally, I went on to become a math major, and then a math teacher, before entering the world of garden-based education. Needless to say, I have been looking forward to this newsletter for a long time. Math is everywhere, especially out in the garden. The very foundations of this seemingly abstract subject – shapes, patterns, counting - are often based on observations of the natural world.

Sadly, math has become a subject that intimidates far too many people. This is why I am particularly excited to hear about so many teachers who are using the garden as a living laboratory for math inquiry and skills practice. The garden can help make math accessible to students who may not normally excel at math, or, perhaps more challenging, students who have made up their minds that they are not ‘math people.’ At the same time, it offers challenges for students who can’t get enough of numbers. It is inviting, engaging, and as Jamie O’Neil of State Road Elementary points out in this month’s success story, an extremely tangible part of the ‘real world.’
There are so many ways to integrate math into an outdoor classroom setting that it was hard to capture it all in one newsletter! Before you dive in, here is an at-a-glance idea bank for doing math in the garden:
  • Calculate area, perimeter and volume of raised garden beds
  • Measure the growth of plants over time, and under different weather conditions
  • Estimate the number of seeds on a sunflower head, or inside a tomato
  • Use trigonometry to calculate the height of a tree
  • Observe mathematical patterns in nature, such as the famed Fibonacci sequence
  • Calculate day length and the angle of the sun based on the time of year
  • Measure proportions for garden-based recipes such as salsa and salad dressing
  • Calculate seed germination rates
  • Graph the results of garden taste tests, or any other data collected from the garden
  • Math scavenger hunts – find specific shapes, or vegetables with a certain area or circumference
  • Garden design that purposefully integrates mathematical elements, such as stepping stones that look like fractions, numbers painted on rocks and raised beds in different geometrical shapes
We hope you'll send us your favorite way to use math in the garden, or perhaps your favorite math-vegetable pun, so we can share it with others in a future newsletter! Enjoy!


Making Mathematics Delicious
From the Edible Schoolyard, these books engage students by integrating kitchen and garden learning into middle school mathematics. Free PDFs are available with lessons for grades six, seven, and eight.
Nature by Numbers Video This short, inspiring video uses closeup images overlaid with shapes, angles, and numbers to illustrate some of the mathematical patterns and concepts found in nature. The video highlights three objects, including two found often in gardens - the sunflower and the dragonfly. With no narration and little text, this video is a great way to get students thinking about math in garden before taking them outside to measure and explore. 
School Grants for Healthy Kids

Action for Healthy Kids is now accepting School Grants for Healthy Kids applications from Wisconsin schools for the 2016-2017 school year. Funding can be used to support initiatives such as school gardens, nutrition education, classroom physical activity breaks, and more!  The deadline to apply is September 16, 2016. Apply here or contact Ryan Monroe for more information

Chop! Chop! Resource Guide
The Chop! Chop! Resource Guide from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction compliments the DPI's Chop! Chop! Video series. Both resources are designed to help school food service staff use more fresh produce and whole grains in every day menus. This pdf compiles the recipes featured in the videos and includes crop-specific information. 
Interactive Math Garden Layout
This school garden in Havana Illinois created an interactive math garden in 2010 as part of their outdoor classroom. Project coordinator Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm maintains this website describing how the school has used different areas of the garden for math lessons, complete with a garden map and sample lesson plans. 

Math in the Garden Pinterest Board 
We didn't have enough room for all of the creative ways we found to use school gardens as interactive math learning centers, so we created a Pinterest Board to hold the overflow! From finding patterns in plants, to measuring the growth of a sunflower, to painting fractions on stepping stones, we were inspired and amazed at the possibilities! 


Events ... visit our Events page for more

October is National Farm to School Month!
two-page document has ideas and resources to help your school get involved in the celebration. (You can even register to win $1,000 for a Farm to School project!) After checking out ideas from the national scene, don't forget to sign up for the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch - more info below!
Building a Youth Beekeeping Program Webinar September 8, 2016, 4-5 PM CST

In this free webinar, Jennica Skoug of Community GroundWorks will introduce the benefits of adding a beehive to your school garden, and answer questions about logistical challenges. Specific topics will include:
  • Background of the Goodman Youth Farm program 
  • How beehives benefit students
  • Safety around the hive
  • Initial costs
  • Facilitating hive management and upkeep
  • Keeping students involved
  • Using bee products to sustain a bee program 
More information and free registration
Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch
October 13, 2016

CRUNCH! We can't wait for it! We're so excited to celebrate National Farm to School Month with our friends at Farm to School by biting into a local or regional apple this October! Sign up (it's free!) to be part of the crunch, and receive a guide to sourcing local apples, event promotion materials, and more. This event is fun, and is a great way to promote (or begin) your Farm to School program!

Sign up to CRUNCH!
Midwest Menu
October 6, 2016

The Midwest Menu is an opportunity for school districts across the region to highlight their healthy, local, and sustainable sourcing on the first Thursday of October. Participating districts will serve a variation on the following menu: whole muscle chicken, apples, a vegetable side dish, and a whole grain item. Each district tailors the menu to best highlight the local and regional foods.

Register Here 
Check out recipes from past Midwest Menu events!
NAAEE National Conference
October 19-22, Madison, WI

Madison, Wisconsin has been chosen as the location for the 2016 North American Association for Environmental Education Conference! The conference theme is "From Inspiration to Impact." Join other Environmental Educators as this national conference comes to Wisconsin!

Learn more about the conference

Wisconsin Local Food Summit - Apply to Present! 

The 11th Annual Wisconsin Local Food Summit will be held on January 12-13, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel in La Crosse, WI! Applications are now open for presenters, posters, and exhibitors. 

Learn more and apply here 

Deadline for presenters: September 12
Deadline for posters: September 26
Deadline for exhibitors: October 15


Tasty Tidbits ... of wisdom, fun, and information

Garden Joke of the Month

What do you call a carrot with corners?

Click here for answer

Cauliflower Love

Doubt no more: healthful vegetables can get students excited. Voices of students from Prairie View Elementary School in Oregon, Wisconsin, prove the point in a cute new video.

Antigo Students Donate 200 lbs of Produce 

Read about Antigo High School FFA students' journey towards starting a garden and donating hundreds of pounds of veggies to their local food pantry in this news article!

Success Story: State Road Elementary School

Thank you to Laura Berry for use of the above photo!

State Road Elementary: Seed germination rates, tomato circumference calculations, and more!
From salad dressing to scavenger hunts, the students at State Road Elementary School are finding that math plus gardening equals major fun.
State Road Elementary School has a unique program that incorporates garden-based lessons that align with the pre-k through grade 5 curriculum. Nonprofit organization Grow La Crosse has a dedicated program director for each of three local schools. At State Road Elementary, that person is Jamie O’Neill. O’Neill has been a part of Grow La Crosse since the beginning, and she draws on her garden-based education graduate studies to create hands-on learning opportunities in the school’s garden for kids of all ages.
Grow La Crosse makes monthly classes available to the school’s teachers throughout fall and spring. These interactive lessons adapt real-world math problems to the appropriate level for each grade. Last year, for example, all of the classes at State Road Elementary School calculated seed germination rates of different crops, an important part of estimating how many seeds to buy for next year’s garden. Kindergarteners counted as a class how many of the ten seeds from each type of plant germinated. The math was much more advanced for 4th and 5th graders, who were each given ten seeds and calculated germination rates using percentages.
The older kids even use math to compare growing conditions and determine environmental factors that would benefit their plants. Over a six-week period, 4th and 5th graders plotted and graphed growth progress of arugula to see if the use of a heat lamp had an effect on the plants’ growth rates.
Math in the garden can even be disguised as a game. Scavenger hunts have been a hit with kids of all ages. Finding a certain-sized leaf of spinach or a tomato with a given circumference not only gets students to use math and measurement skills, it gives them an opportunity to explore and connect with the garden.
But nothing excites the students more than taste testing. And with six outdoor raised beds and six raised beds in a hoop house, there are plenty of fresh cherry tomatoes, greens, peas, carrots, beans, peppers, and ground cherries for the students to taste.
O’Neill recalls that the math just clicked for one 4th grader when it was put in the context of a taste testing activity. “We did a salad dressing and we used proportions of olive oil and lemon juice instead of measurements. One parent was so amazed that their kid came home and made salad dressing by themselves, without needing to use a recipe, just the proportions that we taught.”
Parents may be surprised by their children’s sudden interest in both math and vegetables, but O’Neill is not. “The hands-on connection to nature and food has helped kids focus on the real-world aspects of the curriculum. Teachers have pointed out that some students seem to understand the math concepts more when they’re out in the garden.”


Read other Wisconsin school garden success stories

Thank you to Laura Berry for use of the above photos!

Share your garden story #wischoolgardens

Every garden is ripe with stories.  Maybe it is one about the day the first shovel-full of soil was turned over and the garden was underway.  Or about that time a brave rabbit dared to sample lettuce amidst a class of kindergartners partaking in a garden lesson. Each story has the potential to connect others with your garden program. Send us your story idea, or read our garden storytelling brief for tips on collecting and sharing thestories that make your garden program so special.  

Getting Started with School Gardens

Just starting a school garden? We're here to help. Check out these free resources, developed right in Wisconsin. Or, send us an email with your questions! 

Got Dirt? Garden Toolkit: Simple, step-by-step guide for starting a school garden
Got Veggies? Nutrition Education Curriculum: Aligned with state standards
Cultivating Childhood Wellness through Gardening Free online training with chapters on planning, planting, growing, and harvesting a garden with kids. Approved for continuing education hours for child care providers (1.5 hours of Registry credit).

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