Data and feedback for university research about produce is getting a boost, as kids help researchers in their school garden.
In Wisconsin, students in Katie Schlegel’s fifth grade class at Galesville Elementary are cooperating with the university by growing four varieties of lettuce in the school garden. They started by planting hundreds of seeds when the school year started and now are recording plant growth and taste testing the produce.
When UW-Madison researchers visited the class, the viewed the progress students had made and conducted another taste test. They also spoke to the students about the project, and why the research matters.
Horticulture researcher Brian Emerson told the students that UW-Madison does research on different varieties of produce to discover which ones taste best, and which are best suited for different climates in Wisconsin. Of the six sites in Wisconsin and Chicago participating in the study on lettuce, Galesville is the furthest north.
Emerson believes that students are getting a good learning experience, one that exposes them to basic scientific research procedures and educates them to learn about horticulture.
What is the teacher’s role? Schlegel says that is is important for the students to do all the work of planting, tending the plants, and making their weekly observations and measurements. She is also encouraged by the opportunity students have to take measurements accurately, and learn about the life cycle of a plant from seed to table.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to use their math skills,” she said, “and to learn about what things grow in our area.”