She began planting the tower garden, which she purchased with a grant from the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools. Rainbow chard, kale, and basil are growing this year.
For elementary students, especially the youngest, concepts like nutrition can be difficult to truly understand. It’s not just about memorizing facts; it requires a more nuanced understanding of long-term consequences of actions and understanding of how food is created.
With gardening, Olson’s students learn how vegetables grow and what can affect that; they move plants into and out of sunlight, water them less and more, and try different varieties.
“You have to be patient and try some things,” Olson said.
Kids learn to ask questions about what works and what doesn’t, and it can spill over into their other food choices.
“Kids ask, Why aren’t we having Goldfish?” Olson said, referring to the ubiquitous fish-shaped cheese crackers. Instead of getting a very-adult answer, Olson can couch her reply in their work with the garden.
Most of the ingredients on a box of the crackers are tongue twisters for first graders, but Olson starts with the slogan — “made with smiles.”
Does that make sense, with what the students have learned about how plants grow and are used as food?