Sep 26th, 2014

Kids Learning Science & Math Outdoors in Nature

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Fifth graders taking the temperature of the soil at various radius from the tree trunk.

Fifth graders from George Mason Elementary School taking the temperature of the soil at various radius from the tree trunk.

boy and girl using a compas

Using a compass, and teamwork, to gather data.

girls gathering data

Determining the temperature of the soil at various points distance from the tree trunk. The children found that the temperature closer to the trunk was slightly lower than outside of the tree canopy. Because it was an overcast day, the temperature difference was small.

As part of a partnership with Blue Sky Fund, 5th graders from Richmond Public Schools’ George Mason Elementary School learned hands-on math and science in the Garden. Working collaboratively, students measured air and soil temperature under the tree leaf canopy and outside the tree canopy to determine if trees modify the temperatures of the air and soil around them. Students also measured the water volume to determine if trees impact evaporation of water from the soil.  Students  were able to compare growth rates of two different trees by measuring annual twig growth to discover that different tree species have different rates of growth, and they speculated about weather and other environmental factors that may have contributed to different growth rates.  Have you ever seen kids having so much fun using math, geometry, and algebra skills to solve real-world problems?!  I loved hearing the students’ teacher say that she noticed a clear change in the way some of the children engaged with the science learning differently than they do in the classroom.  For some children in particular, she said, there was a marked difference in the level of focus and interest in learning the material. There’s just something about outdoor, hands-on learning that makes it different than a classroom learning experience.

In the coming weeks, 5th classes from Chimborazo Elementary, Fairfield Court, Belleview, & Woodville Elementary will also participate in this outdoor learning program. Then, the children will come back in October, to see what’s changed.  This program was made possible thanks to a grant from The Dominion Foundation.

Jonah Holland is PR & Marketing Coordinator at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, specializing in social media. She's been known to go for a walk, and come back completely inspired to write a blog post on her newest found adventure.

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