Pikeville Independent Schools

Hands-In Learning

Henry Hunt

(Pikeville, Kentucky) – You can see the process unfolding when a child’s mind is operating – when they are learning to think.  You can read it on their face; see it in the interaction with their classmate; watch their body move differently; and feel the heat coming from genuine, THINKING.

Traci Tackett’s Pikeville Elementary students are “all in” with their hands, brains and stomachs when it comes to their School Fall & Winter Garden Program.  We had a chance to see students in action building homes to attract pollinators, enriching their soil and learning how to think.  I don’t always subscribe to the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the images below may help you experience the student’s learning journey.

IMG_3611Teacher, Mrs. Tackett, and Cathy Rehmeyer, project mentor, recently shared their experience creating School Fall & Winter Gardens during an online workshop.Watch the video for several tips to get your school up and running so students can enjoy the education and dietary benefits.

These bright and engaged students worked with Mrs. Tackett as she led them through a whiteboard session on worm reproduction and pollinators.  They knew they needed pollinators for their school garden to flourish.  They discussed the basics of why plants needed pollination.  They listed potential plant pollinators.  A list of pros and cons of Honey Bees and Mason Bees drew conversation and debate as students started to connect concepts.

Wheels were turning as students broke in to groups to attack the main activities for today – collecting worm castings and constructing Mason Bee houses.

According to the students, collecting castings is simple, and to most, fun.  You just open your worm farm and separate the worms from the dirt-like castings (poop).  Put the castings in a can so you can mix it in the soil to help the garden grow.  Put the worms back in the farm so they can make more castings and more worms.  Or as one young man said, “…it is kind of simple; they eat, they poop.  They make more worms.  That’s about it.”

IMG_3617The second main task of the day involved power tools, so you know it has to be good.  Under the supervision of Mrs. Tackett and district technology administrator, Neil Arnett, students carefully drilled holes in the blocks of wood where the Mason Bees would put their larvae and small amounts of nectar.  Hung near the school garden these small homes will help attract Mason Bees to pollinate their crop.

Mason Bees were selected primarily because they don’t tend to sting.  According to Mrs. Tackett, they also tend to be “messy” and thus prolific pollinators.  One of the students commented during the session comparing Honey and Mason Bees that they would not want to be a Mason Bee, “…because they don’t live as long as Honey Bees.”

I bring this up not just to get a laugh on how funny kids can be, but more importantly to illustrate the level of detail students were absorbing, thinking and drawing conclusions.

When asked what he would tell his mom and dad about this project he said, “I would tell them I would rather do this than study in our classroom.  This is more hands-on experience and class is just learning out of a book.  It is more fun…then reading a book and I learn twice as much as just reading that book.  The book gives the main details, but none of the smaller details…it may tell you that agriculture is planting a garden, but it is not going to tell you, you have to have pollinators … and get into the small details.”

I am not here to argue the merits or role of books (they are good), but I do want to use this to illustrate the excitement and value students place on experience.

At Pikeville Elementary they are hands-in and minds-on with the process.