Baldwin UFSD's Unique Science Curriculum Designed by Scientist
Elementary Schools Partner with Cornell Cooperative and Seatuck Environmental Association
Elementary school students in Baldwin are digging in the dirt this fall, but not just during their recess! The young “citizen scientists” are tending to their school’s gardens instead of just reading the pages of another textbook. The unique science curriculum was designed by a real-life scientist specifically for Baldwin Union Free School District. All five of the elementary schools boast fecund native gardens through a partnership with Seatuck Environmental Association. Brookside, Meadow, and Plaza Elementary Schools also maintain vegetable gardens with the help of horticulture experts from Cornell Cooperative Master Gardeners. The gardening, coupled with the study of the local outdoor environment, helps make the science lessons more relatable and easier to understand, resulting in a deeper learning experience.
Reaping the Benefits
The students are able to learn about the advantages of native and vegetable gardens through a hands-on approach, including the plants’ importance to the Long Island ecosystem. For instance, the native gardens help prevent polluted runoff flowing into the bay. In addition, the gardens provide vital habitats for birds and many other species of wildlife, such as the Monarch butterfly. Following the district’s teaching approach of, “enrichment for all,” the science program is accessible to all Baldwin students.
“The garden work is absolutely thrilling! Students come alive when they actually get their hands on worms and centipedes. Students who are typically quiet or reserved in the classroom are abuzz with conversation in the gardens,” said Nomi Rosen, administrator for professional development. “The excitement is contagious and spills over into research, reading and writing.”
A Lesson for Every Season
Throughout the school year, the students work in the gardens, learning different lessons each season. In the fall, the 2nd graders learn why it is important to winterize a garden, helping to mulch, pull weeds, and plant garlic as part of the soil study. As the months warm up, students at Brookside, Meadow, and Plaza will also plant vegetables, from tomatoes and lettuce to beans and kale, which are harvested and cared for by Baldwin students and their families over the summer.
High school and middle school students also play a vital role in building and overseeing the gardens. In fact, the Baldwin High School science classes collaborated with Seatuck Environmental Association to design Brookside’s garden, select the native plants and teach the 4th and 5th graders there how to break ground. Additionally, the garden at Meadow was created by 7th graders from the Baldwin Middle School, who drew the blueprint and constructed the layout as a part of their science course. Now, for the first time, beginning this December, the 7th grade students will kick off the middle school’s very own native garden, in preparation for the spring.
The collaborative program is just one of the many ways in which Baldwin UFSD’s curriculum successfully correlates from one grade to the next between both the elementary and secondary-level schools, ultimately preparing all students to be future ready upon graduation.