Westmount Elementary students offered hands-on horticulture experience

Westmount Elementary School students got to engage with Nutrien’s mobile classroom trailer to learn about how plants grow, and what influences their growth.

“They came on Friday (Sept. 15), and basically they have their mobile classroom trailer that they bring in with a truck, and it has some digital centres the kids can play with and then there was a water station that showed how a flood works,” said Jana Kopp, a Grade 4 teacher at Westmount Elementary who organized the lesson. “On the outside, they put their digital centres that talked about how soil is composed and made up, and then one of the centres was to actually plant some sunflower seeds (and) microgreens. They could grow into true sunflowers, but because of the time of year, they said the kids could harvest them and eat them when they get their leaves.”

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Westmount Elementary previously hosted the Nutrien mobile classroom as a method to help advance student learning regarding plant health, life cycles and growth.

Kopp said the practice has resumed now that public health restrictions have been lifted, and students are once again able to engage with the kinesthetic learning opportunity.

“During COVID-19, they just sent us a box with the information, and we planted the seeds ourselves, but previous to COVID-19, they … brought the mobile classroom out and our school had done it before,” she said. “It was great – the kids were so excited. They got to touch the different parts of the soil, and the different nutrients they had in jars for the kids to pass around and see what they actually looked like.”

Nutrien’s mobile classroom is available to schedule for teachers and schools within the greater Calgary area until mid-October, at which point the weather will be too cold to comfortably operate, or to sustain plant growth.

Westmount Elementary also hosted a Grade 4 class from Trinity Christian Academy to engage with the classroom while it was scheduled.

Participating students conducted a preassessment before their sessions in the mobile classroom to establish what the class thought they knew, then did a post assessment to establish what they learned.

“This is kind of like a springboard for us. It was a kind of introduction and we can always have it in the fall because of their schedule and our weather. We will connect back to it when we come back to the subject in the spring,” said Kopp.

Other activities available to students through the school include the Green Team, which helps to maintain plants on school grounds, as well as opportunities to engage with the geodesic greenhouse now operational at Strathmore High School.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times