Teachers are always asking what the skills and knowledge sets are for learning and working in gardens and towards understanding sustainability. Knowing where to start and how to guide children through learning experiences appropriate for their stage of development and prior experiences, is a way to begin whole school planning for outdoor adventures and learning.
Presented here are lists that attempt to cover the foundation knowledge for work in the school garden and which then expand to address the full range of sustainability issues. The lists are by no means complete or refined and are offered here as a guideline for teachers when planning. Teaches can pick and choose, adapt or write their own to use as a valuable tool in future planning processes.
The name of ‘Elementals’ was selected as they are truly the most elementary of all skills and knowledge needed for basic self reliance and the understanding of natural systems and their drivers. Once known, these elementals can form the thinking in subject areas that are far from the garden but still based on systems thinking that is so easily learned when playing, learning and growing outdoors.
So the elementals form a collection of elementary understandings in science which are learned in the school garden and then form the building blocks for thinking, learning and acting in the real world.
These elementary learnings have been divided into topics that may stand alone but are usually clustered together in themed work, projects or as part of rich tasks.
The topics are;
The list under each heading is divided into Lower, Middle and Upper Primary school and some of this work could be extended appropriately up to Year 10. There is a logical sequence to the Elementals that builds on previous work, so if a group has not worked on the early skills, then start where they are and move quickly to their appropriate level.
The first topic, Climate has the blank space ready for teachers to list all the things they already do to support the suggested learnings - some may only need a tick. Doing this exercise will identify those things not covered. Then, with another colour, teachers can add the activities, exercises or units of work that will support each unaddressed learning. For the sake of space, and ease of copying, we have not reproduced the blank space for the rest. If teachers wish to do the exercise, then they can copy the Elemental lists and glue them onto the left hand side of a blank sheet ready to complete.
When completing the sheets, it will become noticeable that some elementals are well covered by programmed theme or unit work for the grade, while others are not. It is also likely that the knowledge components are better covered than the skill aspects. Without real hands-on work and actually watching the children perform the task on a number of occasions in different contexts, skills are not truly assessable. So without a school garden accessing garden skills is very difficult.
Skills Observing the weather. Recording simple weather details. Reading a compass to locate North, South, East and West. Reading a wind vane. Noting and celebrating the passing of the seasons. Watching the path of the sun.
Knowledge Different cloud forms and how that can predict some weather. Wind effects and wind direction. Understanding condensation and evaporation. Humidity.
Skills Measuring weather details using instruments and relating them to growing seasons and plant species selection. Examining the differences/ similarities between the local and a different climatic zone. Knowledge Influence on climate of latitude, altitude and position in relation to oceans and continents. The major climatic regions of the globe. Reasons for the seasonal changes. Causes of droughts and floods.
Skills Measuring and reporting weather details. Communicating with people in other climatic regions regarding the effects on their food production, way of life and the weather disasters they prepare for. Performing a Sector Analysis for a specified site. (See Permaculture Elementals) Designing a home for people, or an animal shelter that takes into account the climatic effects of a specified/ selected region.
Knowledge Sector planning. Map reading (contours, flood levels). Global weather patterns and what drives them.