Our DAA students learn by doing—it’s called “expeditionary” learning and with this hands-on learning, we’re seeing great results! Our current expedition allowed our DAA first graders to transform into expert gardeners! After weeks and weeks of studying plants—their parts, their life cycle, their needs for survival, and growing our own crops in our classroom, first graders were ready to transplant their crops into a real garden!
Initially, students met with the incredible Riet Schumack, co-founder of Neighbors Building Brightmoor and creator of the Brightmoor Youth Gardens, when she came to DAA to help students plant their crops—kale, lettuce, collard greens, swiss chard, and beets. Ms.Schumack brought students the crop seeds and her expert knowledge. She taught students how to take care of their crops as they grew. Every day our students nurtured their crops, watering and measuring them. This past Thursday, our first graders experienced one of the most exciting aspects of their hands-on (expeditionary) learning!
Students hopped on a bus for the Brightmoor Youth Gardens, where they met Ms. Schumack, who was eager to see how their crops had grown. Students leapt off the bus, gave Ms. Schumack a big hug, put on their imaginary gardener hats, and got right to work transplanting their crops into a real garden. They raked blankets of leaves off of the crop beds, dumped buckets of leaves into a compost, wiggled the dirt to make room for their crops, and gently patted soil over their crops to make sure they would continue to grow in the garden. Students showed-off their knowledge and shared what they had learned with Ms. Schumack! They truly felt like experts talking to another expert! They were proud of themselves and the work they had done.
As we boarded the bus to return to DAA, students begged to stay longer. When we arrived back at school, we sat in a circle and took turns sharing our favorite part of the day. My favorite response came from a student who said, “I don’t have a favorite part. I loved everything! Everything was so awesome!”
A key principle of expeditionary learning is grounded in the belief that students learn best through self-discovery--and when learning happens during hands-on experiences, students often discover their abilities and passions in unexpected situations. It is so rewarding to see every student live this principle!