I passed out slips of paper with images of a plant growing at various stages of its life cycle. At the top of the sheet, it read, “Can you guess what’s growing in these pictures? They are all pictures of the same type of plant!” The Fourth Graders murmured in their table groups, and I brought the class together with a quick, “apple, apple!” And the class responded, “orange, orange!”
“Ladies and gentlemen, what is growing in these pictures?”
I prompt the class, “what about potatoes?!?”
The class explodes with excitement, and murmurs about potatoes.
“Where are the potatoes in this picture?” I asked the students inquisitively.
The class exclaims, “below the ground!”
When I first approached the Lakeside Elementary fourth grade teachers about continuing FoodCorps lessons with their classes, they were very excited. They expressed interest in growing food inside the classroom. They wanted substantial food that they could watch grow, then cook a meal!
Montana has a short growing season that is not often conducive to school gardens, and the school calendar year. Students are able to plant seeds in the spring, but then summer rolls around and there are no students to tend to the garden, watch the plants grow, and experience the wonders of gardening. When the school year begins again in fall, the garden is ready to harvest and the preparations are made to put the garden to bed. These teachers at Lakeside Elementary wanted their students to experience planting, tending, and harvesting their own food in one clean swoop of a school year!
So, we are now growing potatoes in the classroom! We sprouted the potatoes in the windowsill, and are observing their growth by drawing pictures at two week intervals. We will plant the potatoes in large buckets, and sit them in the windowsill, while learning about what a plant needs to grow. The students brainstormed what else they would like to learn about with potatoes, and I will be incorporating World Potato History, Montana Potato History, and Potato Nutrition into my other gardening and nutrition lessons. The potatoes will, hopefully, be ready to harvest by March or April, and the fourth graders will prepare a Potato Feast.
Potatoes are full of nutrition and history. They are relatively easy to grow indoors, and wonderful to watch. They sprout dramatically, and look like strange aliens emerging from a brown planet. Potatoes are easy to cook, and most kiddos like to eat them! Potatoes are perfect for nutrition and gardening education!
If you are interested in growing your own potatoes with students check out this wonderful resource: Grow Your Own Potatoes.