By Karen “Rennie” Watson, Middle School Science Teacher, Lakeland Elementary/Middle School, Baltimore City Public Schools
This year students decided to take on the challenge of replacing a section of the school lawn with native plants. They created Visionary Gardens, a 1,080 square-foot space that now provides food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and bees and serves as a peaceful outdoor learning space for students in our K-8 school. While students were at the heart of this project-based learning experience, the garden’s success also depended on the collaboration of colleagues at school and contributions from external partners or outside content experts.
A great deal of collaboration and planning for the garden took place during after-school meetings organized by a NCTAF Learning Studios staff person and funded through an AFT/BTU Innovation Fund grant to my school. During these meetings, teachers brainstormed with each other and visiting experts about project opportunities that were emerging from student learning and ideas from our classrooms. Ultimately, we collaborated on a “growing green” theme that served as an umbrella for various environmentally oriented projects. The focus of this article is about how working with our external partners in particular supported both teacher and student learning as we created our Visionary Gardens.