June 1, 2022
Streams students create self-watering flower containers
Second and third graders at Stream Elementary School used their problem-solving skills to develop a solution to an important challenge – how to water flowers while away on vacation.
Through the School-Wide Enrichment Program (SWEP III), students have had the opportunity to take a deep dive into the world of horticulture during three separate planting experiences. This study of plants – appropriately named “Flower Power” – began in the fall and continued throughout the school year.
Last fall, students grew paperwhite lilies from bulbs without soil and during the winter they grew wheat grass from seeds. The third and final experience enabled each of the nearly 200 students to plant a marigold in a self-watering container.
“Each of our three units has had a slightly different STEAM focus,” Mrs. Quinn said. “The first round was an analysis of plant structure, so lots of science concepts. The second unit had an artistic element, and the third focused on engineering.”
Designing a self-watering container to provide enough water for the flower to grow but not too much that it over-watered, required critical thinking skills and experimentation. The final product included two nested plastic containers – one shorter than the other. The flower was planted in the shorter container, which had two holes that allowed for a piece of cloth to loop up into the soil and hang into the taller container below, which held the water.
“We discussed in class how engineers solve real world problems, and an issue we had identified was watering plants when we were not at home,” Mrs. Quinn said. “The self-watering planters were not complicated, but still solved the problem in a practical way.”
Led by Mrs. Mary Quinn, enrichment resource teacher, and Mrs. Sheila Gorgonio, technical instructional aide, the goal of the plant series is to supplement the science curriculum.
“We have a great new science curriculum that includes units on plant life for second and third graders. We wanted the experiences students had with us to build on what they learned in class and expand it in different directions,” Mrs. Quinn said. “There is also satisfaction in planting something and watching it grow.”
Mrs. Quinn is excited to see how many more plants the students can now identify and that their excitement continues.
“An appreciation and enthusiasm around growing plants was also something we hoped to instill,” she said. “Lots of families have reported back that they are planting at home, and still caring for plants that we grew in class.”
All three of the units were designed to be hands-on and each included an individual plant for each student.
“They built on their prior knowledge, and students worked in teams, which led to a high degree of support and success for everyone,” Mrs. Quinn said. “More than anything, students loved having something tangible and lasting to bring home.”
Funding for this project was provided by a grant from the Tanger Outlets that was awarded to Lauren Bogus, Streams second grade teacher, and a matching donation from Angela Petersen, a member of the Upper St. Clair School Board. In addition, the marigolds were generously donated by Green Circle Growers.
Mrs. Quinn plans to continue Flower Power next year, with a new series of lessons for all second and third graders.
“We will be focusing on an outdoor area on the Streams campus, and are excited about really expanding the learning to include year-round gardening experiences,” she said.