Going Wild About Science Outside |Redeemer Lutheran School |Central Texas Gardener

– We haven’t, we haven’t really named the
turkeys. – Woo! Oh! – [Narrator] At Redeemer Lutheran School,
students gleefully jump into hands-on learning. Composing their outdoor environment brings
science enrichment into the garden rainbow rooms. – The evolutions of the gardens at Redeemer
really come from a couple of Monarch caterpillars that I found at my house, one day, about 15
years ago, and I brought them to school, and I was overwhelmed by the interest of the children,
and their parents, and the teachers, and all the staff here. So we brought native and adaptive plants,
and put them on the playgrounds here. First thing I did was start teaching a junior
master gardener program with the third graders. And that was such a success, the teachers
just loved it. And I looked into the research on the junior
master gardener program, and it shows a significant increase in children’s science achievement
scores and science interests. In 2005, National Wildlife Federation really
began their school yard habitat program, and we got incredible resources here in town,
but the leader of the National Wildlife Federation came out, and helped design our butterfly
garden and our pollinator garden. And from that, from the children seeing the
inter-relationship of all life, the fact that if you put in host plants, then the caterpillars
and the insects will come. – And so we’ve been able to incorporate nature
into our outside play areas, which gives kids a chance to get out, experience nature, experience
animals, experience the playground and burn off some energy as well. – I’ve always liked learning about the actual
animals and plants. – [Danna] If you can have animals in the school,
it is just the surest way to the children’s heart. – We like that they have the animals that
are accessible, that they’re incorporating nature into the curriculum and that they have
an actual pull out science that they actually will go do experiments to relate what they’re
learning in the classroom on a weekly basis. – [Narrator] In Redeemer’s water thrifty certified
wildlife habitat, every day is a new awakening as students observe plant and insect cycles. – At this age, the children aren’t typically
terrified of insects yet; and so they are more willing to be open and learn about them. When they connect with the nature and we’re
teaching about the insects, they learn not to be afraid and that they can tell the good
or beneficial insects from the pest insects; which is actually a project that we’re working
on this year with the third graders. We’re going out into the gardens, we’re identifying
the insects that we see there. We’re looking at things like ladybug larvae,
the monarch caterpillars, we’re watching the life cycles, we’re explaining to them how
those insects go from stage to stage. – [Narrator] Since there’s a lot of science
going on outside, teachers work together to reinforce curriculum indoors and out. – Then when I’m teaching out of the book,
we’ll also be talking about what we just saw in the rainbow room the day before. And so I’m able to bridge that into what we’re
learning about. – What does the plant do in photosynthesis? – It makes food for its own self by using
the sun’s energy, and holes through the bottom of its leaves. – And what comes out of the holes in its bottom
of its leaves? – Air. – What, what? – Water. – Yeah, what kinda air? – Oxygen. – Yes, and then a little bit of water– – [Children Together] Vapor! – [Danna] Right, and then what do you see
in that bag right there? – [Children Together] Water vapor. – [Danna] That’s what you see, and where is
it comin’ from? – [Children Together] The trees. – [Narrator] Students learn which plants feed
beneficial insects and birds from fruits and seeds to pollen and nectar. Host plants for hungry caterpillars guarantee
generations of butterflies. Flowers for pollinators mingle with food the
students want to eat, too. – There’s a lot of reasons to grow food, and
the first one that we think about is service. For many years we grew all the herbs for Meals
on Wheels, This year, we planted a Three Sisters garden, with corn and squash and beans, and
of course, there’s great children’s literature associated with that. It takes just a little bit to make a huge
difference. Children will come and bring things from their
lunches, or bring a potato from home that they want to grow. And regardless of season, we’ll chop it up
and put ’em in the gardens, and see what happens. A lot of informal testing goes on here. – [Narrator] Redeemer parent Wizzie Brown,
an entomologist for Texas AgriLife Extension, knows that edible insects are also hiding
in the garden. – Grasshoppers, we can do crickets, we can
do mealworms. Actually, that’s something we’re gonna do
in the curriculum this year. We’re gonna talk about entomophagy with insects
and eating and how you can actually eat insects and have them as a protein source and different
things like that. – I caught grasshoppers with a friend. We cooked them, he ate ’em. – [Narrator] Some lessons are best learned
hands-on, especially when it comes to caring for other living things. – My students love coming out every day and
being able to work in the gardens and with the animals. So I have two students every week that, when
we come out here, instead of playing on the playground, they’re out in the gardens, and
with the animals, and sweeping the sidewalks, and whatever. Whatever she has as a list, they would much
rather be doing that, and so that’s just amazing to me that the need for them to be in the
gardens, and being with animals, and having those experiences that maybe back a long time
ago on the farm, that they don’t get anymore. – If I take a class out and say that, “We’re
now going to weigh how many weeds we pulled, “and the winners get the Skittles.” Boy don’t you know we get weeds pulled? – Here they feel like the gardens are theirs,
the animals are theirs. So they’re making sure that they’re taken
care of really well. And so they feel that responsibility. – We have a little boy right now who’s trying
to get a wheelbarrow, so they can help move the crushed granite in here. – And studies have proven that if kids have
physical activity, that their minds are a lot sharper in the classrooms and they’re
able to concentrate longer. – What I piggy-backed on was the 35 years
of play and playground equipment research that was done by the University of Texas at
Austin and Dr. Joe Frost. He teamed up with Norm Stuemke, who was our
principal here for 42 years, and he and volunteers from the church and from the community, built
these playgrounds out of found materials and donated things. – [Narrator] Redeemer Lutheran represents
how every team contributes to a nurturing environment in their own way. – Since 2002, we’ve had 27 Eagle Scout projects,
so there’s always somebody wanting something to do. – [Narrator] A Girl Scout developed QR code
so that students can identify, photograph and write stories about the garden’s plants. – Former students that come back in, now that
they’re starting to have kids of their own, that are coming in. – Oh, yes. And these are the things that they remember. They remember the gardens, they remember the
playgrounds, they remember their teachers, and just the activities that they were able
to get involved with here. – There’s a lot of resources here in town. And the first place for teachers and schools
who’d like to do the same thing, is to go to the National Gardening Association, kidsgardening.com,
and they are kind of a compendium of the available grants. National Wildlife Federation has schoolyard
habitats and they’re helpful for design. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have Project
WILD, which is a wonderful curriculum, and they have all kinds of resources that you
can bring to your school.

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