Feb 9th, 2016

Inspiration: Education & Nature

child with sprout learning in classroom and drawing the sprout with crayon and pencil

A student in Catherine Hoang’s class planted the seeds, tended to the sprout’s needs, and then made a drawing of the plant. In a multifaceted project like this, children learn many skills, as well as how to be a good steward of the earth.

Daylilies, Pen drawing by Catherine Hoang

Daylilies, pen drawing by Catherine Hoang

You never know who you are going to inspire or how. Recently, we received a thank you note (with beautiful illustrations no less!) from a teacher who has participated in several of our educator workshops.  It’s not unusual for us to get positive feedback from teachers thanking us for the professional development opportunities we offer. We find that educators love to be inspired and to find ways to reinforce SOLs by engaging their students in new ways. It’s just that the influence we had on this particular educator, Catherine Hoang, created such a beautiful and multifaceted result.  In addition to the detailed illustrations she shared with us, Hoang is growing plants in the classroom with her young students and inspiring a new generation of plant lovers.  How fun for preschoolers  to explore botanical illustration at such a young age.

Hoang explains her original inspiration into using gardening in the classroom, “One of the No Child Left Inside speakers, Jane Kirkland, author of Take A Walk books,  inspired me to try drawing a scientific picture of a flower. I am a pre-kindergarten teacher and I especially enjoy showing my children how to draw from nature.”

Later, when Hoang, a pre-k teacher at All Saints Catholic School, attended our Natural Connections workshop for teachers, she participated in the “First Peas to the Table” lesson where she learned how to incorporate science, math and gardening into her lessons.

She says as soon as she returned to the classroom,  “I eagerly had my students plant beans and draw a plant journal and record the bean’s stages of growth. This coming March we will do the First Peas Project.”

Hoang explains that her school, which is working on a community garden, has many ongoing gardening projects. “Students in our Environmental Action Club planted collards and greens this past fall and enjoyed eating the first salad from the school garden. In the pre-kindergarten raised bed, we have a variety of flowers and plants that attract butterflies and we will plant milkweed seeds for the monarch butterflies in spring. ”

Wow, now that is inspiration!

Day Lily drawing by educator Catherine Hoang

Daylily Dissected. Pen drawing by teacher Catherine Hoang.

At Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, we are grateful to have inspired the beauty that is Hoang’s teaching and the beauty of her illustrations. While she continues to take her students outdoors and encourage their drawings of nature, stages of pea plant growth and garden journals, we are gearing up for this year’s Natural Connections conference. If you are an educator and want to learn more about teaching science and nature through authentic learning experiences, consider registering for this year’s event.  The 3-day collaborative conference provides valuable professional development opportunities for pre-k  through 6th grade educators, administrators and pre-service teachers. Presenters will model great ways to blend science, social studies, language arts and math standards in content that will fascinate students.  Parents: encouraging your child’s teacher to attend this workshop is a great way to inspire hands-on and/or outdoor learning in their classrooms.

Jonah Holland is Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where she has worked for 14 years overseeing social media, the blog, and the website. She is also a mom, yogi, open water swimmer, gardener, and seeker. She's been known to go for a walk in the Garden and come back with hundreds of plant photos, completely inspired to write her next blog post.

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