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Let it grow @home

Growing herbs & vegetables at home can be a meaningful hands-on activity linking to science, sustainability and food knowledge

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Let it grow @home - hands-on learning & experiment in remote education

When students are forced to learn at home, they will spend many hours a day in front of a computer, often exceeding recommended screen time. We should therefore use every opportunity to let them learn through experiment, observation and hands-on experience. Growing herbs and vegetables at home is a simple way to facilitate a long-term biological experiment linking to several educational objectives.

It's quite easy to do: Seeds can be sent by mail and they can be started in almost anything organic, if no potting soil is available, used tea bags or organic waste work for most seeds, too. All you need then is time, a problem for many during regular schooling. But staying at home, watering the seeds and watching the plants grow can be a welcome change from other remote learning tasks.

Students can then document the growth by fotographs, sketches or time-lapse movies. Comparisons can be made between different growing conditions, promoting scientific thinking and experiment. Students have the opportunity to design experiments together, exchange and discuss their "growing experience".

Adding to that, growing plants is an activity suited to reconnect students to a basic natural process that reveals laws and limitations of nature and is thereby linked to sustainability learning. However, one of the greatest parts is when students actually manage to grow something they can eat and use for their own cooking - this is easy with herbs like chive, but should also work with various vegetables, at least during longer periods of remote education.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Talking about global problems without actually doing something about them - I think schools really have to walk the talk and try to become sustainable institutions from top to bottom.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I've been working with school gardening, cooking and education for sustainable development in different schools and settings. Like many other biology teachers, I've often sent kidney beans or peas home with students to let them start them the seeds and observe the plants grow. But with long school days and homework, I found that many don't find the time to actually profit from this activity. I therefore moved on to including school gardening in my teaching. However, during the Corona pandemic this spring, I realized that growing seeds at home is very well suited for remote education.

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