The 4th grade life science curriculum focuses on plants, so it is a happy coincidence that Okemos students live close to the Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden where MSU staff, led by Dr. Norm Lownds, make plant science come to life through hands-on activities that are both educational and fun. The MSU Seeds of Science program offers a series of three field trips which address topics such as the relationship between plants and other living things, why plants are important in our everyday lives, identifying plant parts through dissection and garden exploration, and answering plant-related questions using science experiments. These interactive lessons incorporate a variety of fun methods including microscopes, magnifying glasses, stories, journaling, brainstorming, group conversation, and technology.
“Students LOVE going to MSU to participate in the Seeds of Science field trips,” says 4th grade Bennett Woods teacher Denise Nelson. “The staff at MSU have been wonderful at keeping up with our new science standards as well as incorporating technology into the students' learning. Students loved the iPads they were able to use to take photographs of plant structures, diseases and a variety of growing environments in the different greenhouses.”
MSU plant science docents lead students through the various gardens on campus, directing the lessons, encouraging curiosity, and even staying connected in between field trips through the online “Wonder Wall.” The MSU staff are clearly a hit with both teachers and students. Says Cornell’s Don Mowry, “One of the things that impacts the children each year is the staff at the Gardens. Dr. Norm Lownds and his team have done such a thorough job of preparing activities that help the students understand how plants grow and how they reproduce. We especially have enjoyed the lettuce activity as each of the students plant seeds and watch them grow into plants that they actually study and then eat!!” Nelson adds, “Probably one of the best parts of the experience is all the "hands on" and interactive learning that takes place. Students are completely engaged and can't wait until we go back!”
The Okemos Education Foundation is proud to be able to fund these valuable learning experiences for every 4th grade class.