A Student Created Balcony Garden for the School
Last year, our faculty were trained in Project Based Learning instructional strategies. During the professional development, the teachers were inspired by examples of amazing student accomplishments through PBL but were concerned about the challenge of working with young children on such large tasks. The teachers in grades K-3 decided to take on the challenge collaboratively by having their students create an outdoor learning space on the school balcony that was currently bare.
The Balcony Garden PBL Group presented students with the question, “How can we make the outdoor balcony into a useful learning space?” Working in mixed age groups, students met weekly to come up with ideas for the balcony area that would make learning outside something everyone in our school could enjoy. After several weeks of research and discussions, the students created a presentation of their ideas to share with the whole group. The group decided phase 1 would include outdoor furniture and learning materials, a butterfly garden and a fountain with a rock garden. Each grade level was assigned a task to implement and during the winter months the students worked on a plan for their space.
As we began this project, a teacher concern was the loss of instructional time. Our general studies program is only 60% of the day, so time management is essential. Teachers quickly found that much of the math, technology, science and language arts curriculum was easily integrated into the project. We also realized that the project held enormous value for the students by teaching them how to use skills learned in the classroom in real-life situations. The students conducted research mostly with the use of technology and recorded their findings in Google Documents and Google Slides, which were easily shared with teachers and students.
Students worked to produce a budget for the project’s materials and raised funds in a variety of ways. They also needed to conduct, check and consider measurements of space and weight in the planning stages. The PBL instructional strategy offered many opportunities for the classes to read and write about what they were doing. One class even published and printed a book about the butterfly garden that they incorporated into the school balcony.
In the spring, the groups came back together and were ready to build the balcony garden using their designs. The students began to transform the space into a comfortable and useful community garden. With some furniture, a rug and a whiteboard, classes can conduct lessons within the space. The butterfly garden was designed with the needs of Monarch butterflies in mind. In order to incorporate the whole community, everyone in the school hand painted a rock to add to the rock and fountain space. This project continues into the new school year, as the students come together and design Phase 2 of our Balcony Garden.
The group celebrated the opening of the school balcony garden and invited the entire school to come and enjoy the newly created learning space. Thanks to the students’ hard work and the support of our school and families, students successfully created a functional outdoor learning space. The students are excited to continue this project. We are all eager to see what else our students can create and how our garden will continue to grow.