Curriculum includes planting and tending crops all year

by: KATE HOOTS - Bob Carlson, CREST director, shows a group of second-graders how to plant garlic at Lowrie Primary School Oct. 31.The morning of Oct. 31 was clear but cold —not the kind of day that would make a lot of people think about starting a garden. But that’s exactly what the second-grade students of Connie Coston’s class were getting ready to do at Lowrie Primary School.

Awaiting a special guest, the students gathered around Coston in their classroom, discussing important matters like the different parts of a plant and what plants need to grow. Some seeds just might do well in the soil over the winter, the students speculated. With the abundant rain that’s overdue this fall, the growing plants would have plenty of rain to help them grow, they agreed.

The students also discussed beneficial insects, including bees and butterflies, and pollination. The importance of compost and plant food also came up as the students talked about what they had observed during an earlier session examining the school’s garden.

When the anticipated guest, Bob Carlson, appeared, students rushed to line up at the classroom door, shrugging on their coats as they filed out the building toward the raised beds beside the school playground.

Carlson is the director of CREST, West Linn-Wilsonville School District’s Center for Research in Environmental Sciences and Technologies. He will visit the second-graders four times over the course of this school year, helping them to plant and maintain the four garden beds assigned to their grade. This time, he was there to sow winter crops with the students. The students will sow additional crops early and late in the KATE HOOTS - Second-graders gather around their teacher, Connie Coston, to discuss plant growth while they wait their turn in the garden with CREST Director Bob Carlson.

“Most people who have a garden just do the late spring (planting) and it grows over the summer,” Carlson told the students. “Some plants can grow in Oregon year-round, but you have to plant the right things.”

Carlson had a ready answer when one student asked, hopefully, if he had brought gardening gloves for them to wear.

“I think kids should get their hands dirty when they work in the garden. This is your chance to get dirty,” he said as cheers erupted.

Under Carlson’s direction, Lowrie second-grade classes would be planting two crops particularly well-suited to winter growth: garlic and fava beans. The favas, he explained, served two purposes. They produce edible beans, and as they grew to maturity, their roots add nitrogen to the soil. That’s an important ingredient for healthy soil.

“We have enough space for any class that wants to do things in the garden,” Coston said. For second-graders, the garden plays an important part in the curriculum over the course of the year.

“The garden connects to about a third of our curriculum,” Coston said. As they gardened, students would be learning about math, science and problem-solving. Those lessons will be reinforced with classroom reading and discussion all year long.

“Students are developing an understanding of what plants need to grow and how plants depend on animals for seed dispersal and pollination,” she said. “They will learn how to plant, grow and work in their school garden. They expand on what they have learned about natural habitats and apply their understanding to a garden habitat.”

It’s not all work, though. Students who work in Lowrie’s garden learn the delicious benefits of gardening too.

“Earlier in the fall the second-graders tasted tomatoes from the school garden they planted as first-graders,” Coston said. “Many children tasted a raw tomato for the first time.”

Most of them even enjoyed it, she added.

Kate Hoots can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 112.

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