A Scary Surprise for the School Principal

The principal’s birthday is Saturday. Last year, we were in the midst of the devastating Northern California wildfires during her birthday week. Needless to say, there wasn’t much of a celebration. This year, I decided to use the garden as a way to show my appreciation for the principal of the site where I support a thriving school garden.

Secretly, I invited a troupe of kids that I knew would dig right in to a DIY project. A handful of Dirt Girls, 75 linear feet of PVC, and a few hours later, our very own Scarecrow Row was born!

Four different teams constructed unique and imaginative scarecrows. They collaboratively fashioned outfits from ripped nylon hammocks, scavenged props from the toolshed to rubber band in scarecrow’s gloved hands, and bent wire into eyeglasses that even had tape lenses!

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I have to credit a UC Master Gardener for introducing the PVC scarecrow idea and that of “Scarecrow Row.” In their horticultural creativity, they are planning a Fall Faire, a community event showcasing science of plants.

First, I secured a template for a PVC scarecrow from the Master Gardener and then cut old irrigation pipes to length for child-sized scarecrows. Kids were invited to bring clothes or props from home, but I also had a box of materials to repurpose.

I showed the students the parts of the sample scarecrow (base, legs and hips, torso, arms). It was a good anatomy lesson (e.g., is the top or bottom of your leg longer?), but there were other fun and useful lessons as well. Here are a few things I observed:

  • concentration humming signaled the feeling that kids were really focused, in the zone, found their “flow”
  • trial and error helped them figure out how to use parts in interesting ways
  • teamwork enabled them to make decisions about how to dress their scarecrows and what resources to use for this purpose
  • imagination drove students to innovate, embellish, and fabricate thematic elements to their scarecrow design

When I gathered the students in a circle at the start of the session, I read them a short poem about scarecrows and elicited their background understanding. They made the connection to the pears from our tree that had been bitten by birds, demonstrating they understood that a scarecrow is a simple way to, well, scare crows.

I told them it was a STEAM project. One very bright girl asked, “Don’t you mean STEM?” STEM with the A is STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Agriculture, Math. This scary surprise hit all of those disciplines. What would delight a principal more than that?

 

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