Our April fieldtrip to the Biocultural Conservation Farm at Oak Spring in Upperville, VA was a little washed out. Instead of tromping through the muddy gardens in the pouring rain, the creative staff came up with a fun indoor activity. In the classroom students made their own model of a walled in garden!

They designed their garden using cardstock and tracing popsicle sticks for their beds. Soil or “brown paint” was applied to the beds. Next, they threw on some weeds to simulate having to “wake the gardens up”. Black plastic was placed on the beds to act as a silage tarp that would kill any weeds wanting to grow back and help decompose all of the plant material left from the previous growing season.

Using soil test kits, they learned how to test the soil for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and pH. After, they pulled the silage tarp and raked their gardens using a scuffle-hoe (pipe cleaner) and a rake (plastic fork).

Next came the amendments to help improve the soil for the plants. Sea kelp was green glitter, Azomite was black glitter, Humic Acid was pink glitter and Feather Meal was yellow glitter. They learned how these natural materials help the plants to grow and thrive.

At the farm they use a broad fork to aerate the soil and move the amendments deeper instead of a gas powered tiller. Students mimicked this with using a plastic fork. Next they used the tilther (paintbrush) to prepare the top 2 inches of soil to prepare for seeds or transplanting.

Students got to choose different seeds to plant (glue) into their beds. They learned about the many heirloom plants that they grow at the BCF. They labeled their beds with a sharpie and installed drip irrigation using yarn. This was such a fun simulation, and the kids were so happy with their models.

Afterwards, they planted some microgreen and pollinator seeds to take home. It was such a fun and educational trip, and we were all pretty happy we didn’t come home cold and dripping wet. We can’t wait to return in the late summer to see what is happening IN the gardens!

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