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Enrichment Brings Students Out Into the Garden at West Patent Elementary

two girls dig in the garden at WPES

“So, basically, a carrot is an edible root,” one student noted.

“Look at that tomato! It’s incredibly round,” another observed.

“Dig to Egypt!” a third student shouted.

The excitement and observations came from second graders during a recent enrichment period at West Patent Elementary School.

“West Patent follows the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM), which comes out of UConn’s Renzulli Center for Creativity, Gifted Education, and Talent Development,” explained enrichment teacher Denise Connolly. “Under normal circumstances, the model allows for student choice and self-selection for a class they would like to take for a semester. Given the current situation, we wanted to continue to offer enrichment for all, but modified it so that for 8 to 10 week sessions the entire school will be focusing on one module or unit of study."

To start the year off, students are learning about science through gardening.

Connolly started this particular session by guiding students through sun salutations in the garden before diving into what plants they could find there and teaching students how to tell the difference between fruits and vegetables.

“If I’ve never eaten an eggplant before, but I know it grows from a flower, is it a fruit or a vegetable?” she asked.

“Fruit!” they shouted in unison.

The group discussed the different parts of plants, what they need to grow, and terms like germinate, perennial, dormant and pollinators.

After inspecting some of the sunflowers, tomato and eggplant that were already growing, it was time for students to get their hands dirty. Connolly split them up into pairs and each group worked together to plant mums.

Connolly said that students will soon be taking nature walks as part of the environmental studies enrichment. They’ll continue to learn about soil, plants, pollinators and ecosystems.

“We’re trying to get them outside as much as we can,” she said.

In November, when the weather turns a little cooler, enrichment will move indoors. Students will get to participate in woodworking, followed by engineering, and then coding and robotics before ending the year with a return to environmentalism.

“These high-interest units of study promote hands-on, minds-on learning opportunities,” Connolly said. “And they allow all students to participate in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) lessons.”

West Patent is not the only school in the district that is currently providing hands-on learning through gardening. This is just a peek at how one school is doing it.

students do sun salutations in the WPES garden students plant mums in WPES garden student and teacher inspect tomatoes in WPES garden