Take Every Opportunity
3 years ago after a teachers convention, my principal came to me and said I bought something for the school and I want you to see what you can do with it. I was teaching elementary students in a school that houses grades 1-12 and is very diverse in its programming. It was decided that I would try this “something” with the high school students in the hopes of engaging and experimenting with its potential. This “something” was a vertical, aeroponic growing system called a Tower Garden. Now, most of you by now have heard about them or have seen them, but at the time it was a very novel idea and concept to Parkland School Division. I was pumped about the very cool idea of learning something new with these students. Little did I know how far this novel idea was going to go in 2 very short years.
The next year my principal bought 3 more for 2 other schools in his care and the Tower Garden idea grew (pun intended). Our division took notice and our leading health champion took the reins and started to find ways to make our gardens grow. About this time last year she came to me asking if I would help other schools set up their towers and get them started if she could find ways to get more gardens. “Of course”, I said, thinking, what a great opportunity. We were both cautiously optimistic, not knowing what lay ahead.
Last week I was able to find out what was ahead and I could not be more impressed and amazed at the innovative thinking and creative ways schools, teachers, students and parents are using the Towers. When given the opportunity, it truly is inspiring what can happen.
The following are some of the quotes from teachers and students on having the Tower Gardens this year.
“Can we get another Tower Garden?”
“It is so nice to have a garden inside that doesn’t need weeding”
“I get sad when the plants die”
“It is nice to have something that I am responsible for”
“It calms me, the sounds are relaxing”
“It is nice to look at the plants and how they grow, it is hopeful”
“I learned that kale tastes good”
“I am so proud of how well our plants grew and how quickly they were ready to eat”
“I love eating the greens everyday”
“The plants in the Towers grow so fast”
“We talk to our plants and they grow better”
“We teach others how to grow things”
“I like that we have access to the plants all year and they are right in our classroom”
“I like having something living around me”
“It makes me happy”
This next part is a list about some of the connections students made with the things they grew and the way they opened my eyes to opportunity. They didn’t just make salads with their Towers although they did that too and and they rocked it. Please read carefully, you don’t want to miss a single idea.
- Created blogs about gardening
- Created logs and checklists on how to care for the Towers
- Ran assemblies to explain and teach their Towers to others
- Researched, created and tried healthy recipes including smoothies, salads, popsicles, dips, dressings, tea, wraps, pesto, dried herbs, soup, muffins, bruschetta, salsa, veggie chips.
- Raised money by raffling tickets for tomatoes to help pay for nutrients for the Towers
- Raised money for SCARS (local animal shelter) to help needy animals by selling fresh herbs and dressing recipes
- Connected growing to measurement and graphing in math
- Created time lapse video to show growth movement and speed
- Spoke at The Shaping the Future Conference in Kananaskis Alberta on the importance of resiliency and healthy attitudes
- Spoke at the Alberta School Board Association General meeting on leadership and innovation
- Used plants to substitute into recipes for healthier versions. My favorite is a student used sweetpeas in place of a portion of the sugar in banana bread. RIGHT??
- Experimented growing things in different mediums
- Grew and dried catnip to make cat toys for families and friends
- Leadership opportunities to share and teach other grades, classrooms, schools and our community.
- Made connections with the Senior Citizens in our communities by sharing growing tips and harvest results.
The most important thing I want to share about this experience is that it is still growing. A school in our division does not have readily accessible fruits and vegetables in their community. The school would like to start a microsociety with the Towers to fulfill a need in their community with a school farmers market. WHAT a fabulous way to make connections with our curriculum and the real world.
I have written enough, but I could go on and on. I am so proud of the TD Green Towers Team and can’t wait to see what they do next. They have inspired me and my students to try new things next year with our Towers. The title of this post is Take Every Opportunity and I want to wrap up by saying that I have loved this opportunity and what I have learned this day, is that you never know where that opportunity is going to take you!
Tammie Sarauer, Teacher
Connections for Learning