Our last week together has arrived sooner than imagined. The time goes by so fast! We’re going to miss our amazing group of kids. They have learned so much because they have open minds and are cultivating a passion for saving the planet.
The field trip for Week 5 was visiting the Science Barge, where students saw, touched, and experienced everything they’ve studied, as well as the green technologies they’ve learned about. They had an opportunity to see how these things are actually put into practice, witnessing first-hand how we can use low-tech and inexpensive solutions to improve the environment.
For Week 5, we finished assembling our bug hotels. We also focused on the Permaculture Principle of Accept Feedback and Apply Self-Regulation. Although this can apply to anything, students learned how to accept feedback from nature by relying on a language older than words. In response to Mother Nature’s signs, warnings, and messages, they embraced the idea of being humble enough to apply self-regulation in their lives to face down our greatest existential threat: climate disruption.
Honoring this theme, students wrote letters to government officials, asking them to help stop climate disruption. Their hope is these politicians will accept feedback from children who want nothing more than a healthy, green place to live. We’re so proud of what they’ve learned and accomplished in such a short-time. Our students are quickly transforming into young eco-citizens, ready to tackle today’s real-world challenges.
The kids started Week 4 by making a list of what contributes to climate disruption---and its environmentally destructive impact. We explored green technologies being engineered to counter these problems or offer safer alternatives. Students designed their own eco-friendly spaces based on this day’s lesson.
Our trip to Battery Park Urban Farm included observing a vegetable garden in lower Manhattan. Particular wonder was expressed at the full-grown asparagus plants, which were two feet tall! The garden’s food is donated to food pantries and schools. We also visited a meditative garden that illustrated how important these special spaces are in urban settings. Back at the school, the kids made an herbal salve tying in with the theme of healing with nature.
Students had a blast when given free rein to draw and paint. But they were shocked to learn just how important dirt is after watching Dirt, the movie. Dirt needs to be nurtured and protected just as much as trees, seeds, and bees do. The kids soil-tested the tree pits outside of the school, as well as the raised beds on the rooftop garden. Percentages of clay, silt, and organic matter were assessed. Then they dug their hands into the worm bin and observed the worms. They learned about the different types (worms are always a big hit) and why they are so critical for healthy soil.
As usual, there was cooking. Each student enjoyed a freshly made salad they made from our rooftop garden and veggies. They improvised the cilantro lime dressing and did it without a recipe. They also made 20 customized icicle pops.
The garden required its usual tendering and terrariums were made. Back in the classroom, the interconnectivity of plants, seeds, bees, and worms was illustrated by watching The Lorax. Students’ hearts sunk when witnessing the unnecessary global environmental destruction. But their spirits were lifted upon discovering they can make a difference. The UDSP is about offering offering hope for young people. Our kids know by taking action they can be part of the solution.
We began to layer what we’d learned in the classroom, seeing how everything is connected. Students understood on a gut level that nature has designed itself to provide for us. But there’s always hands-on work to do, which is what our students love, especially in the garden. They tended to the radish plants by thinning them and did likewise with carrots. They learned how to read seed packets and were taught about the importance of spacing and depth when planting.
Students also discovered the different uses of plants, which preserve the environment by favoring natural materials over synthetic. They learned how plants not only provide us with our nutritional needs but also provide for medicinal needs. For example, they can serve as insect repellents for both humans and plants. To validate this lesson, we made all natural bug spray and a lavender pillow for headaches.
The UDSP is a special combination of classroom learning, experiential education, and field trips. This week's outing was a tour of the Queens Botanical Garden, with a special focus on bees. Our host gave us many ideas for how to encourage bees to come to our own garden through proper design.
Students designed board games based on everything they’d learned the first three weeks. They learned that problem-solving can be fun when using their natural skills and resources available. Designing these games presented challenges, but everyone relied upon their creativity and teamwork to get the job done. They got so engaged, they begged to continue all day.
As a follow-up to our field trip, students were taught how important bees are, ecologically. They also learned about the anatomy of flowers and what exactly pollination is (the transfer of pollen to allow for fertilization). They quickly made the connection: no bees = no pollination = no seeds = no food! Bees are vital to the wellbeing of humans. The following day, the UDSP crew designed their own pollinator garden. They incorporated everything they’d learned at Queens Botanical Garden to take care of our bees.