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Extension > Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners > Learning about Soil and Water at Garden Camp


On this blog, we share regular updates about the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners partnership between Extension's Children, Youth & Family Consortium and Bruce Vento Elementary School.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Learning about Soil and Water at Garden Camp

By Kirsten Saylor, School Garden Coordinator

Third grade garden camp kicked off last month at Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul. During camp students learn about planting seeds, how to read a seed packet, care for seedlings, watch growth, and harvest mid-May. If you haven’t already, you can read about Session One here: Third Grade Garden Camp Begins. Sessions Two and Three are here: Updates from Garden Camp.

Session 4: Soil

Once seeds are planted, students come to the garden for another three weeks to see how their plot changes, including the growth of the seedlings in terms of growth of shoot and roots, recording this information on a Daily Observation worksheet.

In addition, students take a deeper look at what plants need, and the first week was soil. Observing temperature, moisture, softness, and color of soils around the garden: in their raised bed, under the mulch, on an eroded area. They noted that under the mulch the soil was much cooler and wetter, while the surface of their plot was warm and quite dry despite recent rains. We compared the color and feel of the garden soil (dark, soft) with that of eroded soil (hard, rocky) and discussed what might be better for our plants to grow their roots in.

Students examine seedlings using a magnifying glass
Examining seedlings with a magnifying glass

Students started to see bugs! For some this was a real challenge to be around bugs. Those that were fine or enjoyed the insects, essentially taught their peers more about them and that they would not hurt them.

Normalizing nature is a major goal of Garden Camp for students who live in the city. A good friend once asked, "How can we expect kids to respect nature if they don't know what it is?" As someone who also grew up in a concrete world, I instantly empathize with that "fear of the other" that I first had when in nature. It took lots of exposure for me to feel comfortable in natural settings.

Session 5: Water

After soil comes water! Our next session, we continued to use the lessons around us. Built on a slight slope, we were able to demonstrate the need for slowing down water so it can sink into the soil. In our plots, we learned to water with “waterers” — yogurt containers with holes in the bottom — noting both the force of water as it falls and how it flows in our plot. It helped students see how the early big rains washed some of the lettuce seeds around.

Students using plastic containers to water garden plots
Students watering their plots!

With every session, we observe the growth of each of the three crops, record the information, and today, we thinned in order to make space. Students enjoyed taking seedlings and see how the roots were growing. Last week, they all had one tap or main root that was going down. This week, they had secondary roots coming off the main root.

Next week, we take a last look at the growth of our seedlings and learn about the power of the sun.

In this session, students learned how, with thought and intention, they could help the environment around them, and that they were learning the tools to do so.


Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Learners is an ongoing partnership between the Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium and the Bruce Vento Elementary School. Together, along with many other partners, we are developing engaging learning environments that promote student learning and wellness.

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