CEHS grad student to present on Garden-Based Learning at the NCTM conference

Graduate student in the five-year teacher education program at West Virginia University, Hannah Stone, was chosen to present at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual meeting in April.

Stone will be presenting “A Fruity Investigation: Data and Measurement”, accompanied by Dr. Jim Rye, professor of science education at the WVU College of Education and Human Services.

“I first learned about this project through my science methods course with Dr. Melissa Luna,” said Stone. “We used this project and others to learn about creative ways to integrate projects into teaching science and other standards.”

According to Stone, this was her first real introduction to garden-based learning.  

Garden-based learning is an educational strategy which utilizes school gardens for instruction, allowing children to develop skills in math, literacy, science, nutrition, environmental impact and more.

“I quickly became interested in learning more about garden-based learning,” said Stone.  “It was something interesting to me, because it actually made learning meaningful to the students.”

Pioneered by Rye, GBL became a staple in the curriculum of many classrooms at North Elementary School in Morgantown, West Virginia in 2011.  Since its implementation six years ago, the program has grown from being used in seven classrooms to 25.

According to Rye, “GBL is not limited to the growing season: North students have conducted investigations of Asian greens, beans, strawberries, sunflowers and other plants right in their classrooms. Hannah is taking her experiences with GBL to the next level by providing professional development to other teachers and on a national level.”

Stone met Rye in August of 2014, while in her third year of the five-year teacher education program at CEHS.  Over time, Rye encouraged her to become more engaged with GBL.   

A result of Rye’s encouragement, Stone was placed for her fall internship in Melissa Fornash’s fifth grade classroom at North Elementary. In Fornash’s classroom, Stone was positioned to execute more GBL projects and to learn more about teaching education standards through GBL.

“While I understand not all students are interested in gardening, it is something that most students seem to relate to and it is applicable for use outside of school,” said Stone.  “They [students] begin to understand how it can apply to their life and generally all students seem to enjoy doing a garden project.”

While an intern in Fornash’s classroom, Stone had the opportunity to lead GBL projects including “a fruity investigation” and “let us grow lettuce”.

For the fruity investigation project, students predict whether fruits and vegetables will sink or float.  The purpose of this lesson is to teach students about density and graphing experimental data.  The lettuce project taught the students about fractions using lettuce germination rates.

“The students were really involved in all the projects. They had so many theories on why the fruits or vegetables sank or didn’t sink.  It was really rewarding to see how engaged they were and how each student remained interested in the problem-solving process of figuring out how to get fruits that sunk to float,” said Stone. “For the lettuce project, we were able to even expand on their learning by using the data collected from the project to also learn about means, median, and other calculations.”

Graduating in May, Stone hopes to gain a teaching position in her hometown area of Frederick County, MD, and has every intention of implementing GBL in her future classroom.

“North Elementary has a really strong structure for supporting GBL projects, but I’ve seen the impact it has on learning and am prepared to implement a small system in my own classroom,” said Stone. “I’ve learned how easy it can be to get your hands on a couple grow lights and grow boxes and that’s all you need to get started. GBL gives teachers the ability to get students learning through hands-on processes and it crosses a lot of curriculum and subjects, such as math, science, and reading.”

Stone recently presented on the lettuce project at the 2017 National Association of Professional Development Schools conference in Washington D.C. She will present the fruity investigation project at the 2017 Annual NCTM meeting on April 8, 2017 in San Antonio, TX.

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