How Does Your Garden Grow?

In an effort to bring together schools, the community, and families my school recently established a community garden. The garden’s purpose is to enhance the healthy living of communities living in poverty, reduce family food budgets, teach gardening skills, provide advanced opportunities for inquiry learning in science, and to promote positive community and family engagement. These photographs chronicle our adventure to establish the Lake Contrary Elementary Community Garden.

school comm familyOur school, Lake Contrary Elementary, joined forces with several community agencies to establish our garden such as The Youth Health Partnership, Heartland Hospital, and Chamber of Commerce. Our business partners were a tremendous help, thank you Wyatt Park Christian Church, Walmart, and Omnium.

IMG_0265This site was chosen for the community garden because of the access to water and storage.

IMG_0499Installation of fencing. Funding for our community garden is made possible by a federal grant.

IMG_0518Planting Day begins! We invited community members, parents, and of course students to participate in ourground breaking and planting.

IMG_0543Nona Miller, our Family Involvement Coordinator, was the core to our gardening team. She taught students how to map out a garden, how to plant, and provided the experience and knowledge needed to begin a successful garden. Here she joins students in prepping the garden.

IMG_0527Dr. Melody Smith, Superintendent of the Saint Joseph School District led the ribbon cutting ceremony for our community garden groundbreaking. She is joined by Lake Contrary students.

IMG_0517The community gathers in our outdoor classroom.

IMG_0531The look of learning.

IMG_7821Ready to dig!

IMG_7829Teachers and students working side-by-side.

IMG_7868Being physically active and planting nutritious food.

IMG_0544Our amazing parents and families joining in the efforts.

IMG_0535Gardeners big and small.

IMG_7773Serving healthy refreshments.

IMG_7786_2At the end of the day…

At the end of the day we had provided a lifetime of memories, built new partnerships, provided authentic learning experiences, and established a garden sure to grow much more than food!

Sticky Notes and Lightbulbs: Leadership Lessons About Student Reflections

As my school has been learning about the 7 Strategies of Assessment for Learning written about in Jan Chappuis’ book, I have come to realize that formative assessment, in its truest form, the type that gains student ownership is one of the biggest leadership lessons I’ve had this year. As we teach teachers how to give feedback to students, set goals with students, provide clear learning targets, etc., we as leaders should be doing the same with our staff. As lead learners and teachers, principals should be learning how to use formative assessment to increase teacher knowledge, rigor and student achievement in their schools. This post will focus on student reflection.

As I was doing some informal classroom visits I was lucky enough to sit in on a lesson where a 5th grade teacher was implementing strategy #6, students reflecting on their learning. (So much so, that I ran back to my office to grab my camera!) In this lesson students were analyzing their reading response journals. The students were instructed to reflect on how their writing changed over the year, how their thinking has changed, and to use the rubric to identify changes in specific learning targets. Here are some of the results:

Student Reflecting on Reading Response Journal

Student Reflecting on Reading Response Journal

Students used yellow sticky-notes to reflect on how they used to respond to literature, they used light bulbs to reflect on how they respond now based on new learning.

Students Posting Reflections

Students Posting Reflections

Here students post their reflections in a t-chart. The class then analyzed the reflections for themes to practice metacognition – thinking about our thinking!

Student Motivation

Student Motivation

Although most students wrote about learning targets this reflection focuses on motivation. This particular student entered 5th grade as a non-reader and has grown over 2 grade levels in one year! Here he writes: “I was a not so good writer, not so good reader, I did not like to read and acted like I was reading, left out stuff and rolled my eyes.”

Student Reflection

Student Reflection

Here the same student writes, “I can read bigger books, I like to tell people about my books, I like to make entries about my book, I can encourage people to read a book, I will tell people why do you not like reading, it is fun.” Now this is student ownership!

This teacher took a class that had less than half of students reading on grade level to over 75% on grade level by 3rd quarter. Her implementation of student reflection is just one reason her students have shown so much growth.

As a leader I am now reflecting on how to use these same strategies for teachers and how technology can help facilitate this process. As a staff we are looking into teacher reflections using our district Ning ( but I am always looking for more ideas. How do you facilitating staff reflection in your schools?