Greenacres was honored to have world renowned animal activist and advocate for autistic populations, Dr. Temple Grandin, speak at the Greenacres Arts Center on January 14th. Watch the video below to see what Dr. Grandin had to say about the different ways people think.
Recently, visiting fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students had the chance to discover the wonder of plants through self-guided work in the Greenacres greenhouse. The students worked in small groups to reinforce what they had been learning in science class with hands-on exploration at various stations. Along the way they had a chance to use scientific tools like microscopes, petri plates, and forceps. Three stations focused on the needs and structures of plants and one included inspecting some plant “helpers” who break down dead plants so new plants can grow.
At one station, students pulled radishes and beans or kale to compare taproot and fibrous root systems. The radish’s taproot grows long and deep into the soil, reaching water that is far below the surface. The kale and bean’s fibrous roots grow far and wide with lots of branches, increasing their access to water and nutrients. Seeing the complexity of the roots under the microscope, including the root hairs that increase a root’s surface area, was a highlight.
At another station, students inspected a celery stem that had been sitting in blue water, during which time the water had traveled all the way up the stem to the leaves. Groups figured out that the stem helps transport water from the roots to the rest of the plant for survival and photosynthesis. They examined a celery cross-section under the microscope that showed blue dye in the vascular system.
A third station encouraged students to examine various flowers with the naked eye and under the microscope. They enjoyed looking at the colorful petals, but also focused on finding the pistil and the anthers. Pollen comes off the anthers and is transferred (by a pollinator, the wind, etc.) to the sticky stigma on top of the pistil. From here the sperm in the pollen travels down the pistil to fuse with an egg and form a seed. Often, a flower cannot pollinate itself (self-pollinate), but must receive pollen from the flower of a different plant (cross-pollinate).
To complete their explorations the students examined compost under a microscope and found much more than meets the (naked) eye! Not only were there worms, but also mites, larvae, fruit flies, and more. This part made some feel a little creepy crawly, but all these critters are doing the important job of breaking down dead plants into compost that can be used to grow new plants.
After rotating through all the stations the groups came together to discuss and compare their observations and ask questions.
The ground outside may be frozen, but our worms are hard at work in the greenhouse making compost that we can use in the garden come spring. Thanks to members of the Greenacres Estate Crew and a regular Garden Education volunteer, we have a new wooden worm bin that is both educational and highly productive.
Students can peer into the bin and watch as worms eat and tunnel their way through leaves, newspaper, and fruit and vegetable scraps. A wire screen separates finished compost from the unfinished food scraps, allowing students to see and feel the difference between the two. This also makes harvesting the finished worm castings simple and efficient.
Some of the nutrient- and microbe-rich vermicompost has been siphoned off to study how this “black gold” actually affects plants. The experiment compares plant growth and viability between a nutrient-free potting soil and potting soil with vermicompost added to it. So far, germination rates of the vermicompost potting soil are about four times faster than the control – we will have to wait to see how big and how tasty they get!
Kindergartners from the New School visited Greenacres last month in anticipation of the upcoming winter solstice. The time surrounding this day, usually around December 21st in the Northern Hemisphere, has traditionally been celebrated by many different people around the world. It has also been a major influence on more familiar holiday celebrations. The Kindergartners’ trip included hiking, dipping candles, and making spice blends.
The group started out the day by learning about the science of the solstice. One student shined a flashlight (the sun) on a globe to demonstrate how the tilt of the Earth at different times of year causes the seasons. On the winter solstice the Northern Hemisphere is tilted as far as possible from the sun.
A winter hike revealed plenty to discover on a cold, gray winter day. The group saw animal homes, lichens, berries, a creek with a waterfall, and a beaver den.
The students also had the opportunity to create their own source of light to celebrate the returning sun. They made candles by repeatedly dipping a wick in warm, melted wax until it thickened to their liking.
The Kindergartners practiced following recipes by measuring out herbs and spices to make cider and pizza blends. The students tied their spice packets with a beautiful ribbon and took home recipes.
The group traveled to a gnomon pole, a tool used since ancient times to tell time. The gnomon casts a shadow from the sun, which moves over the course of the day with the rotation of the Earth. Though the sun wasn’t out during their visit, the Kindergartners circled around the gnomon pole to sing a song together and recognize the return of longer days.
At the end of the day the group enjoyed solstice stories and warm cups of mulled cider flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and orange.
Access the recipes the students used below.
Check out last year’s Winter Solstice program here.