By Eve Elkins, III Form
20% Time Project: Gardening–The Long Process of Planting
Editors’ Note: In Ms. Amanda Hultin’s III Form English classes, her students pursue 20% Time (or “Genius Hour”) projects. Some essential elements include taking control of one’s own learning, choosing an individual topic, deciding how to learn and to produce a public product, and reflecting on the process.
Reflection on learning:
*What content/information did you learn during this project?
I learned about gardening. I learned that the perfect time to water the plants is in the afternoon. If you water them at night or early morning, they are more likely to grow fungus. I also learned that snap peas, which was the vegetable I was growing, grow best in mid-spring, which was when we started this project. They also have the quickest growing rate which was about two months. That is how I came to choose snap peas. When I contacted the manager of Chestnut Hill Farms, I was able to find out about the evolution about gardening. Now, in current times, gardening has shifted to being grown indoors all year round. Gardening used to be seasonal but now, due to modern technology, there have been trucks and trailers developed to sustain plants even in winter. Lots of people still garden but the way we do it has changed.
*What skills did you learn during this project? Can you list them? How do you know you developed these skills?
I learned two skills while gardening. The first was patience. You have to be able to have patience to be a good gardener. You have to take care of your plants each day even when there is no progress that you can see. It took about four days for the plants to grow. In that time I couldn’t see if they were making any progress. I had to wait and realize that all I could do was water the plants and let them absorb sunlight. The only thing I could do was give them time. When you garden, you can’t see the plants growing, you can only see the outcome. It took about five days for me to be able to notice a difference in growth. The second was consistency. You have to have a consistent watering schedule for the plants. If you miss a day, it dries out the plant and they begin to wither. Every day I had to go to the STEM 2 offices and water my plants a consistent amount. I know I have developed these skills because throughout the process, it got easier and more fun. About two weeks in, I look forward to checking on my plants and watering them. It was cool to see them grow and I felt proud.
*How did you teach yourself about your chosen topic? What did you do first? Next? Why did you approach learning in this way?
The first thing I did was research how to be a successful gardener. I researched tips and instructions, and I watched videos. After that, I looked into what vegetable I should grow. I looked at what grew best in mid April and which ones grew the fastest. When I decided I would grow snap peas, I contacted the manager of Chestnut Hill Farms and asked her about some useful information about gardening. I approached learning about planting in this way because it seemed logical to me. First I learned the general do’s and don’ts, then I decided on a plant to grow, and then I contacted an expert to assist me in growing the plants. Each time I got more specific in what I wanted to learn about gardening.
*What learning strategies (watching videos, talking to an expert, trial and error) did you find most effective for you? Why?
The learning strategy that I found the most effective was watching videos. Gardening is a very visual concept so watching videos on how to grow snap peas really helped me visualize how to plant the seeds and how quickly they should grow.
*What did you learn about yourself (particularly as a learner) by having to teach yourself about your topic?
I learned that I learn a lot better when I can visualize what I am learning about. This is interesting because until this project, I never knew that I learned better one way or the other. Gardening is all visual and I think that is why I had an easy time learning about this topic. I could easily see what I needed to do and I could understand the main concepts of gardening.
*Are you still interested in your chosen topic? If so, why? If not, why?
I am still interested in my topic. Gardening is a cool skill to have because you can grow your own food. Also, it is something that not too many people take time to appreciate. They don’t acknowledge the work and skill that necessary in order for them to get their food. Even though I am interested in my topic, I do not think I will continue to garden in the future. The main reason is time. Since we did 20% time, I was able to put aside 45 minutes a week for gardening but now, I am not sure if I will have the time to maintain growing plants.
*Is your public product appropriate for the intended audience? How do you know? Does the public product align with your purpose? How do you know?
I think my public product was interesting for the audience. I know this because I was one of the few groups that had a physical object to show. Most of the people had projects online which they presented but mine stood out more because they could see my product. I think my product aligned with my purpose. My goal was for people to notice that gardening isn’t as boring as everybody thinks and that it is really rewarding when you are able to grow your own plants, During the presentation I talked about how accomplished I felt when the plants first started to grow and having them displayed showed the audience that I was really proud of what I had done.
*If you could change one thing about how you approached this project, what would you change? Why?
I would change how much research I did before I started the planting process. I was really eager to start planting but now looking back, I would have had an easier time gardening if I did more research. I did not run into having a lack of information during the process, but I feel as if there could have been more useful tips for me to learn about and maybe if I did, I could have been more successful with my outcome.
Reflection on the 20% Time Unit:
*What did you like about this unit?
I liked how much freedom we had. It was super cool that we could choose whatever skill we wanted. This made me more motivated to work on the project so I was able to get a lot of work done. It was fun to learn about gardening because if it weren’t for this project, I don’t think I would ever try to garden on my own time.
*What did you not like about this unit?
I did not like doing the project proposal mainly because I ended up doing something much more different as I went deeper in my research. My original idea was to grow snap peas in a pipe that was cut in half. After that I would write an article and hopefully publish it in an environmental online newspaper. I ended up being able to borrow soil and gardening containers from the school. My public product was a Padlet that I made explaining the process of my 20% time. So my public product was a lot different from my original idea.
*If you were the teacher, what changes would you make before repeating this unit next year?
I do think the reflection is important, but I do not think it should be 200 points. 20% time was not a huge project. We were only supposed to work on the project for 45 minutes a week so I think the reflection should be around 50 points because we are reflecting on a small in class project.
Eve Elkins is a III Form boarding student from Brookline, Massachusetts. She runs cross country in the fall, plays squash in the winter, and enjoys tennis in the spring. She loves hiking and photography.