Sage Canyon's "Roots & Shoots"

Sage Canyon's "Roots & Shoots" Connects Students to the Natural World
Posted on 01/11/2024

Lessons in gardening are taking root at Sage Canyon Elementary. The school’s newest offering, Roots & Shoots, has students digging in the dirt, planting seeds, and experimenting with different methods of growing plants. It’s environmental science in a fun, hands-on way.

Based on Jane Goodall's program of the same name, the focus is on learning about and loving the natural world and becoming compassionate leaders within the school and outside the community. 

Roots & Shoots is a specials class, like art, gym, and music for Sage Canyon students in grades Kindergarten through 5th grade. So far the children have conducted studies of monarch butterflies and created beautiful works of art and stories. 

“Roots and Shoots was brought to us by our amazing Laura Trimarco, who presented the idea out of her passion for the subject, and Jane Goodall.  We needed a fourth connection (our specials rotation), and this was the perfect fit. Kids have loved the hands-on approach and learning about cultures worldwide. Everyone has enjoyed our indoor garden and we are excited to see what new things our students continue to learn about,” said Sage Canyon Principal Mandy Hill.

Sage canyon elementary students working with plants as part of the roots and shoots programRoots & Shoots provides ample opportunities for students (and their teacher) to practice problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and collaboration. For example, Sage Canyon students recently grew milkweed with disappointing results. Science and Roots & Shoots teacher Laura Trimarco was stumped. “We had the correct soil, we used the correct seeds, and we had the right environment,” she said.

Trimarco visited a local nursery to inquire why. She learned that in order to grow milkweed, the soil should be the temperature it would be in June. Trimarco purchased a reptile heat pad and placed it underneath the terrarium. This experience reinforces the idea that students and teachers alike are always learning.

Because soil is so important to successful gardening, Roots & Shoots incorporates vermiculture, the process of cultivation of worms. Worms are raised and used to break down organic materials as part of a composting process called vermicomposting. Known as the ‘worm farm’ by the third-grade students, a large rubber container holds worms and rolly pollies that eat lettuce and produce rich, dark brown, fertile soil. 

A bonus to the curriculum was a recent talk given by Trimarco’s son who is a soil expert! 

Throughout the class, students rotate from the germination station, where they are conducting experiments using ancient versus modern seeds for planting corn, beans, and squash, to the Tower Garden aeroponic growing system, where students are planting herbs like basil, oregano, parsley, and mint in small, individual containers.

Students are currently learning about the ancient Anasazi people who lived in the present-day Four-Corners region of the United States and the challenges they faced in farming. 

“We are working on building a relationship with a Roots & Shoots club in Kigoma, Tanzania, and in the process, we’re picking up bits of basic Swahili,” said Trimarco.

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