GardenWorks ~ Cultivating Academic Standards for Non-Academic Students

Overview How can students with multiple handicaps feel they belong? GardenWorks lets high schoolers from an occupational skills program contribute to the school community in meaningful ways. As they design and build terraria, begin a window side habitat and observatory, and donate plants to school areas and fund raisers, participants not only recognize they've enhanced their campus, but also understand that the entire school values their efforts. By applying concepts and skills to domestic, vocational and recreational activities common to families and sheltered employment facilities, the young gardeners fulfill a continuum of activities that address science and math standards in academic as well as career competencies. Adaptive computer software allows teacher and students to complete a variety of alternative assessment tools. Working with plants produces not only a healthy crop of vegetables and herbs but creates healthy attitudes toward skills that will serve a lifetime.

Classroom Activities
Community Activities
Career Activities
Discuss & compare plant characteristics & needs.
Plant corn seeds in mini-terrarium.
Use picture communication symbols to measure & observe plant growth & development.
Perform soil experiments.
Prepare presentations for GardenWorks school based expo.
Invite parents & school community to Expo.
Plant & maintain small schoolyard window habitat with vegetables & herbs.
Invite parents & classmates to view schoolyard habitat progress.
Recycle organic & inorganic materials.
Maintain school weather bulletin board.
Plant & maintain container gardens in teachers' & students' courtyards.
Donate plants to school scholarship fundraiser.
Make presentations to school community during Expo.
Practice vocabulary & communication skills (Word Document, 284 Kb) needed for life skills.
Complete domestic, vocational & academic responsibilities within a given amount of time.
Follow plant & courtyard maintenance schedule.
Complete activity from beginning to end.
Search Internet for pictures & information on gardeners.
Follow behavioral rules beyond classroom.

Learning Standards

Access & entry skills for Biology:
Students understand role of observation & experimentation in the scientific process & the development of scientific theories.
Students have a (deep) understanding of key concepts, principles, phenomena, & basic factual material included in biology.
Students understand how humans use technology & design process to respond to the natural world & solve everyday problems.
Students understand humankind's interactions with nature over time, technologies developed, benefits & consequences of our actions, & impact of science.
Students connect study of science & technology to a variety of (career) opportunities.

Access & entry skills for Math:

Relate mathematical language & symbolism of operations to problem situations.
Develop operation sense for real numbers.
Describe, extend, analyze & create a wide variety of patterns.
Represent & analyze relationships, using tables, verbal rules & graphs.
Model real-world phenomena with a variety of functions.
Engage in problem solving, communicating, reasoning & connecting to: situations using discrete structures, such as finite graphs, matrices, sequences and recurrence relations.

School to Career Competencies

Practice Communication & Literacy Skills.
Organize and Analyze Information.
Problem Solve.
Use Technology.
Complete Entire Activities.
Interact with Others.

Assessment Teacher uses rubrics, checklists, self-evaluations to assess performance and participation on tasks and activities. Teacher assists students and their parents to evaluate performance on initial and final products. Students maintain color-coded, easily identifiable portfolios of daily, weekly and monthly projects--always accessible for parental and administrative review.

Software or Materials Used For computer and Internet: SonyMavica digital camera; Custom Land Designer by Broderbund; Boardmaker: the Picture Communication Symbols by Mayer-Johnson, Inc; PrintShop Broderbund Software, Inc; Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint & Word Microsoft; ArcSoft Photo Studio, version 2.0; for gardens: garden tools, household tools, lots of recycled plant and food containers, seeds. paper materials for weather displays, etc.

Web Sites Web Sites

Keywords Adapted Science Curriculum, Adapted Math Curriculum, Non-academic high school students, Science Basics, Math Basics, Picture Communication Biology, Students with Severe Special Needs, Weather, Indoor Gardening for Students with Special Needs, Gardening for Students with Special Needs

Final Words GardenWorks provides verbal and non-verbal students with experience in:

  • Planning for long range activities,
  • Anticipating the needs of other living organisms,
  • Evaluating success and failure,
  • Plotting strategies to address a variety of events and problems,
  • Contributing to common household and community activities.

Working with Boardmaker and Picture Communication Symbols challenges students to communicate on many levels.

Teacher Tip Forget instant gratification--these are life skills! Though it may be difficult (at least, it was for me), let students learn from spills and stains, dead and missing plants and folders, non-compliant animals, unwanted pests, and a persistent cold, north wind.

E-mail contact Peggy Renfranz

Teacher Bio For over 25 years, Peggy Renfranz has taught Adaptive Daily Living (ADL) skills to students with severe disabilities. Soon after moving from New York City where she was named a Teacher of the Year, she joined Hyde Park High, a School to Career School. An active member of the school's accreditation review committee, she also contributes to its Instructional Leadership Team. With the current emphasis on standards based learning, Peggy is identifying ways to combine the familiar ground of ADL instruction with the unexplored regions of biology and math. Her students recently won first place at the school's Science Fair in the category of Teacher Assisted Projects. This teacher reformer views adapting Massachusetts Curriculum Standards to meet the needs and capabilities of her students as Rubrics Cued.

Subject Areas Biology, Math, Independent Living Skills

Grade Levels 10 - 12+ (15 - 22 year-old students)

Students High school youth and young adults with multiple handicaps (limited communication skills, physical and medical disabilities, behavioral disorders, developmental disabilities including autism and cognitive functioning, visual impairments, and/or cerebral palsy) in substantially separate classroom program

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