Virtual Visit to a School Garden

Lesson ideas for using the Earth Day Webcast in your classroom

Meriwether Lewis students' discussion topics:

  • organic vegetable gardening
  • natural building with cob
  • composting
  • rainwater collection
  • planting their new bioswale
  • Pacific Northwest native plants

Some related curriculum topics:

  • plants, plant parts, plant life cycle
  • living things and processes (respiration, etc.)
  • photosynthesis
  • conservation of natural resources
  • ecosystems, biomes, interdependence
  • sustainability
  • erosion, soil
  • water cycle
  • geography
  • natural resources
  • climate, weather, seasons
  • impact of human activity on the environment
  • health and nutrition
  • scientific method

Prepare your class: (choose ideas that apply for your level and curriculum)

Tell students about the virtual visit, focusing on curriculum topics that connect the garden to YOUR class. Do a class brainstorm in advance, asking students to predict what they might expect to see in a garden outside a school in Oregon. Save the brainstorm as a file created on your interactive whiteboard or on a large sheet of paper so you can revisit it later. Prompt students to recall what they have learned/are learning about related curriculum topics. Ex. What must plants do to survive in the Oregon climate? How is this climate different from ours? What must people do to grow plants in Oregon? What stage of plants might we expect to see in a garden in April (vs. late summer, for example)? How might the students be doing water collection in their garden? What is cob and why might they be using it? What is composting and why might they be using it?

Have students work with a partner or small group to compose specific questions to ask during the live webcast. These questions should connect to the brainstorm they have completed. Have the class vote or prioritize which questions they would like to ask first.

With younger students, have students draw what they expect to see in a school garden, labeling the things they know about.

Share a map of Portland's location from Google Maps (linked here) or on a "real" map. Ask the class what would be similar/different about a Portland garden compared to one in your town. Use a Venn diagram to predict similarities and differences. Be sure to save it to make changes after you watch the webcast.

Explore Earth Day resources on TeachersFirst to reinforce what you will see in the webcast. Start from our Editor's Choice Earth Day sites or use our keyword search (in the left column of this page) for specific topics.

Prepare the technology:

Be sure you have tested the link to the UStream show called Lewis Learning Garden the day before on the computer you plan to project for your class. Be aware that the frame of the video will not be large and video quality is not like a large screen TV. Notice the chat area to the right of the video window. At the bottom right of the video window, next to the word "Menu" is an icon to click to "toggle full screen." This will make the video full screen but take away the chat area. ESCape on your keyboard takes you back to the video plus chat view. Make sure you can "see" the video from all seats or allow students to sit closer, even if it is on the floor.

During the webcast playback:

Play the video once, asking each student to think of a curriculum-relates question. Then ask for student volunteers to "role play" responses to class questions about the garden tour, as if they were the Meriwether Lewis student.

Before you play the video, explain that students will be rewriting the narration to emphasize ____(curriculum topic) . Play the video once, then replay it with the audio turned off, allowing students to "narrate" the tour themselves, using terms and concepts they have been studying. Students will need some time to prepare this narration and may work best in small groups, watching the video at laptops to plan their script. If you have the capability, allow students to create their own comparable garden tours outside your school or at home, then post them on TeacherTube (reviewed here) or SchoolTube (reviewed here).

After watching:

Revisit your prediction brainstorm by having students in small groups make changes, additions, and corrections in printed copies or create their own revised large paper editions. If you have an interactive whiteboard, display the file and allow students to use whiteboard tools in different colors to note predictions that proved correct, add information, and add what surprised them. Have students write a short paragraph or make a drawing to connect what they saw with what they know:

Meriwether Lewis Elementary's garden is a good example of [curriculum topic or term here] and continue by explaining two or three specific examples they saw of that concept. Ex. The garden was a good example of the importance of conservation of natural resources. They collect water ...etc.

Extend the experience by imagining some of the garden's ideas in your school, homes, or town. Invite your class to figure out what it would take to build a school or home garden. What barriers must they overcome? Can they draw up a plan? How would such a garden benefit the school/family?

Use the garden as an example of scientific method. If you wanted to learn the impact of composting, for example, how would you design the experiment?

Compare the garden with those closer to home. How do gardens look around your school? Why are they different? Take digital pictures and have students caption them in PowerPoint or on Voicethread (reviewed here), explaining how they differ from or are similar to the garden in Oregon. Be sure to prompt with questions related to your curriculum focus.

Have another idea? Share it with TeachersFirst by contacting our webmaster. Be sure to put "webcast" in the subject! We will add your great ideas here.