The first graders in teacher Brigid Taylor’s class at Union Ridge Elementary School have grown accustomed to keeping tabs on the forecast. When the weather is favorable to their plans, the good news elicits small nods of approval, big smiles, and even a (green) thumbs-up or two. That’s because these little gardeners are busy managing a big garden plot, planted entirely with seeds they started in science class.

Each Wednesday, the students walk from their classroom to the Blue Heron Community Garden in downtown Ridgefield to plant more seedlings and to check on the ones already in the ground. The first graders are doing all they can to help their tiny plants grow to full height. Since their new science unit focuses on air and weather, they are always tracking to see how the weather will impact their plants. A class “weather reporter” provides cold weather alerts so that the students can provide extra protection for the seedlings.

The first graders started studying plants last fall when classes were all remote. The students worked their way through the science unit, learning how plants grow from seeds and what impacts plant growth. Then they put their knowledge to work.

In early spring, they started plotting their garden. Together, the class decided where each plant should go, drawing the garden layout. The students brought their own seed packets from home, relying on the labels to learn when to plant things and how much sun and water each plant required. Then they carefully selected which plants they should grow, planting the seeds in pots in the classroom.

Eleanor McCain rakes the garden plot, while Sloan McTighe (left) prepares to plant some peas.  PHOTO CREDIT:  Brigid Taylor

Eleanor McCain waters plant starts before taking them to be planted.  PHOTO CREDIT:  Brigid Taylor

As the seedlings grew, the students investigated when each should be moved to the garden. And they took their mission seriously. “One little gardener informed me that we still have some time until our cucumbers can be moved,” Taylor said. “He confidently informed me he would let me know when that day came!”

With plans and trowels in hand, the students go to work each week. Their garden is now the home for many seedlings, including sunflowers, carrots, radishes, peas, petunias, tomatoes, four dahlia bulbs from a student’s grandmother’s garden, and a begonia. They are still waiting to plant their peppers, corn, and of course–cucumbers).

Taylor’s students from last year also managed a garden plot, setting a good example for her current students. By summer, they had a very successful garden filled with lush plants that yielded tasty things to sample. Even when schools were shut down, the students were able to go and plant things on their own. They would send Taylor pictures of themselves tending their plants.

Last year's student garden produced many beautiful flowers and delicious vegetables.  PHOTO CREDIT:  Brigid Taylor

Annabel Berrian smells mint still growing from last year's garden.  PHOTO CREDIT:  Brigid Taylor

They planted other things as well. One day, a sign reading ‘Mrs. Taylor’s Garden’ suddenly appeared. “I am not even sure which student stuck it in the soil,” Taylor said. “They never told me, but even in remote learning, the garden grew–and so did my students and their love for their little garden.”

This year’s group of students will get to see their garden take shape. They love their trips to the garden to see how their plants have grown, and they’re all looking forward to the day when they can harvest their vegetables and enjoy some flowers. It’s a fun, hands-on way to enjoy science class, and Taylor is proud of what they have accomplished. “These kids are truly bringing their learning to life.”