A school garden is an ideal location to tie hands-on learning to language arts. Here are some ways to “dig in” with literature activities, including the Imagine this… Story Writing Contest (deadline: Nov. 1).

Tops or Bottoms
This “Ag-Bite” encourages K-3 students to eat more fruits and vegetables by familiarizing them with the plant parts we eat. The activity involves reading the book “Tops and Bottoms” by Janet Stevens. After reading about the adventures of Bear and Hare, take a tour of your school garden and have students indicate which crops grow underground (by touching their toes) and which grow on top of the soil (by standing tall with hands to the sky).

A Garden Plot: The Tale of Peter Rabbit
This unit, for grades K-1, uses classic tales from Beatrix Potter to prompt students to think about where their food comes from, distinguish between fact and fiction, observe roots and soil, and write about personal experiences they have while caring for the gardens they create.

My Life as Fruit or Vegetable
From the newly updated Fruits and Vegetables for Health unit, this lesson provides students with an opportunity to enhance writing skills while simultaneously learning about the production and distribution of California fresh produce. English language arts Common Core Standards in grades four, five, and six will be met during the writing process that includes brainstorming, writing rough drafts, peer editing, illustrating, and publishing final copies of student work.

Gardens for Learning
Page 25 of Gardens for Learning: Creating and Sustaining Your School Garden includes several ideas for relating language arts exercises to the garden. Ideas include keeping daily garden journals documenting observations, weather conditions, and classroom activities; preparing and delivering presentations about the garden for other students, teachers, and parents; and writing, illustrating, and publishing a collection of garden stories and poems. These activities are aligned to Content Standards for California Public Schools in a companion piece to the book called Gardens for Learning: Linking State Standards to Your School Garden.

Agricultural Awareness Through Poetry
Ninth and tenth grade students will analyze poems by Robert Frost, and others, to see how poets have used farming as an interesting and important topic. Students will then write a poem that illustrates how agriculture impacts his or her life.

Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other
In this “WE Garden” activity, groups in grades 1-3 will explore adjectives and opposites as they use their senses to identify and classify objects in the garden laboratory that have specific qualities (such as dark/light, rough/smooth, scented/unscented, etc.).

Book Recommendations
These activities, or adaptations of them, can be initiated simply by reading a good book. Visit the books section of www.LearnAboutAg.org for a selection of more than 500 titles that have been reviewed and recommended by educators. Filter the list by grade level, search for a favorite author, or just browse, from start to finish, for a text that can be used in the garden classroom.

Imagine this… Story Writing Contest
This story writing contest is more than an extension of the activities listed above; more than an assessment that signifies the culmination of learning. The contest can be the impetus for a life-long love of writing and discovery. Winners of the contest are recognized on a level worthy of their achievement. Six stories are selected from more than 10,000 written, only one from each grade.

The state-winning authors have their stories illustrated and published in a softcover book. They travel to Sacramento where they are interviewed, along with their teacher, on camera. They autograph dozens of copies of the book. They read their stories at an awards ceremony. They meet their illustrators. They receive a medal. And—new for the 2012 contest—they receive an e-reader. Many authors return to Sacramento during the summer for the California State Fair where they autograph more books as part of the “California Authors” exhibit.

Meanwhile, the book is distributed across the state in many different formats. This year, it’s available as:

If you teach grades 3-8, don’t miss this opportunity! Enter your students’ stories by submitting them with an entry form to your regional coordinator by November 1. If you know a third through eighth grade teacher, tell them about this contest!
Download an entry form at www.learnaboutag.org/imaginethis

For more resources from the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, visit www.LearnAboutAg.org

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