The farm now boasts an Outdoor Classroom pavilion. This functional space allows educators to extend student thinking before, during, and after their hands-on work in the farm.
Our Director and Lead Teacher, David Hilmy, meets with each of the 22 Walker Jones classes multiple times throughout the school year as an extension of the Health Education curriculum where students not only make connections with nutrition, but also agricultural science, sustainable values, and that intimate connection humans have with the Earth. On these carefully planned, engaging visits, students learn about and experience key areas of the farm and observe how they grow and change over time. These Farm Labs lay a foundation for the Lead Teacher and classroom teachers to help students pursue more in-depth projects.
Classroom Room Integration
All classes, pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, enjoy full access to the gardens and farm. Teachers plan and implement a diverse array of long-term and shorter-term learning experiences, differentiated for their students’ needs and interests.
Connections to Existing Walker Jones Curricula
- DCPS Standards and Assessment: Each garden offers opportunities to teach and deepen students’ achievement on DCPS standards across all subject areas. In particular, engaging in complex garden processes over time will build students’ tier-two and tier-three vocabulary, a significant need for Walker-Jones students which is not yet adequately addressed by existing curricula. Additionally, Walker-Jones lacks a rigorous, comprehensive science curriculum; student work in gardens presents an exciting opportunity to unify students’ science skills needed for success on 5th and 8th grade DC-CAS science tests and long-term career choices. Finally, all long-term garden projects enhance students’ abilities to use text for information and articulate complex thought processes, a major area of student need on all DC-CAS assessments.
- Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop: Garden projects fit well with two major literacy structures, Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop. Reader’s Workshop emphasizes reading for comprehension, a skill built when students research garden projects in nonfiction texts or make connections to plants, foods, and environments in fiction texts. Writer’s Workshop also emphasizes comprehension by having students craft cohesive pieces of writing across genres. Experiences in the garden will provide complex, shared experiences students could translate into small moment stories, how-to books, environmental print, and poetry, all major genres for study in the Writer’s Workshop.
- Everyday Math: Everyday Math emphasizes applying math concepts to real-world experiences. As discussed above, the proposed gardens will provide countless real-world opportunities for measurement, graphing, patterning, geometry, counting, and more. Observing and graphing garden conditions would fit naturally with Everyday Math’s component of daily routines.
- Responsive Classroom Social Curriculum: Walker-Jones practices Responsive Classroom, an innovative, school-wide social curriculum. Gardens provide many places to build and represent community ownership, a key component of Responsive Classroom. For example, designing a garden plot in the Experimental Garden or creating art for the gardens give students concrete input into their school community. Caring for live plants, observing the results, and using beneficial products all foster children’s capacity for self-direction and individual responsibility, more hallmarks of Responsive Classroom education. Since 2010-2011 will be a year of major transition for Walker-Jones students and staff, strengthening a sense of community and responsibility early in the year will reap major benefits.
- Reggio Emilia Inspired Early Childhood Education: Walker Jones is a DCPS site for Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood education. Reggio Emilia students learn primarily through hands-on projects connected to their interests. Undoubtedly, children’s imaginations will be sparked by the diverse garden components, igniting fruitful project work. Furthermore, Reggio educators emphasize the environment as a teacher. Enriching children’s environment by including functional, beautiful plants exponentially increases the environment’s educational power.