From left, Clare, Sawyer and Meghan collect their samples in the science gardens at Sandburg Elementary School. LPS photo by Bill Yeomans
BY BILL YOUMANS
The science gardens behind Sandburg Elementary School are usually quiet, peaceful places of solitude, right next to the playground. That is until a small gaggle of energetic second- and third-graders descend upon it in their quest to find plant samples.
The eager members of Steven Newell’s science class carefully pecked and snipped through the multi-layered garden filling their bins with different grasses, stalks and seed pods used to study the cycles of life.
Newell, director of Science and Technology at Sandburg, shared details about the project.
“Our focus today was two-fold,” he said. “We wanted to get outside to get samples of plant growth that comes from the tips (primary) or from the trunk (secondary), and then it was back inside to trace the shapes with crayons. By drawing their samples after examining them, the students can recognize their sample type and understand more about the plant’s life cycle. Getting out to the garden encourages exploring, while the indoor work teaches them to document and share what they find by comparing their findings with their classmates.”
Back in the classroom, students began to examine the contents of their bins. Carefully holding their growth samples for closer examination, they often asked one another for input on categorizing their sample. As the class progressed, Newell had the students begin outlining their samples on their assignment sheets.
Clare O’Brien began intently tracing her large seed pod with a crayon, wondering if it was a good choice because of its odd shape.
“It’s really fun to draw in science class,” she said. “I’m trying to make mine look like the real thing. I’m a good artist and I guess it looks like a pod to me.”
Newell noted that the kids really connect to the life cycle concept. During the class, he showed other examples of growth—the rings of a tree, a long squirrel tail and a jawbone from a rodent that other students had found during an earlier excursion.
“Kids are used to seeing human growth, so the big idea in third grade is to start understanding life cycles—how organisms grow all the way to adulthood and die in different ways. We want them to understand that a redwood might live for a thousand years, our pets might live to be 15 years old and a human might live to 100,” he said.
The Sandburg Center for the Sciences promotes enthusiasm and passion for science for all Sandburg students by increasing hands-on science experiences. The program originated in 2005 through an Innovative Programs Grant from Littleton Public Schools. And thanks to the 2013 bond, it now operates in a lab and in an expanded classroom space for co-teaching and exploratory learning. The science gardens are the result of years of work by current and former Sandburg Boy Scouts and by parent and community volunteers.
Bill Yeomans is a multi-media journalist for Littleton Public Schools.
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