Establishing good, healthy soil is important in the raised planters and garden beds and the discussion shows how plants use nutrients in the soil to grow and set fruit. As plants mature, it’s imperative that the soil is well cared for and maintained to support the crops. Proper watering and soil amendments become an important factor.
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2.1 Why Grow Our Own Food?
Edible education belongs not just to the school but students will also take ownership over their program and the plants that they cultivate. This lesson begins that process, encouraging students to define why edible education and learning about food production is important to them.
Chart a Course (Intermediate)
Producing food in the Lab is a great way to explore science, math, history, and the practical skills mastered by farmers everywhere. This lesson goes beyond the educational elements and asks students to determine the highest and best use for the food they produce from a revenue generating perspective.
Go Big or Go Home! (Advanced)
When we built the Edible Learning Lab curriculum we envisioned much more than just an educational program. We saw revenue and the promise of sustainability. In this lesson, students are tasked with imagining their Lab in the future, a time when it can provide nutrition for all students in their school and maybe even serve the community as a whole.
2.2 Raise the Roots!
Raised planters make growing food much simpler than tilling a patch of the back yard. This lesson explores the benefits and challenges of using raised planters in the Lab.
Reinvent the Raised Planter (Intermediate)
Raised planter designs vary greatly from a simple box to self-watering units. This lesson explores raised planter designs and asks students to improve on them to increase efficiency and production.
Take Your Planter to Market (Advanced)
It’s time to take that fancy raised planter design to market. In this lesson, students will produce raised planters for sale and craft a marketing plan to advertise them to the community.
2.3 Thirst Quencher
Determining When to Water (Beginner)
Overwatering is one of the most common issues in gardens everywhere. In this lesson, students will learn techniques for testing the soil to determine if it’s time to water and how much to apply.
Drinks for All My Friends (Intermediate)
Watering can be a tedious task and in the flagship Edible Learning Lab we have students perform that function by hand. This lesson explores the design of a flood table and tasks students with crafting a new and improved version.
Plant Watering Robots (Advanced)
Commercial farms are using all sorts of automation to manage the function that farm hands did in the past. In this lesson, students will conceive an automated water system and create a set of design specs for its production.
2.4 Plants Can’t Swim
Why Drainage is Important (Beginner)
Drainage is imperative for optimal plant development. Indoor operations like the Edible Learning Lab must pay close attention to drainage to avoid overwatering. This lesson uses soil samples to evaluate drainage in the raised planters.
Build Soil that Drains (Intermediate)
Drainage is an often overlooked aspect of good soil. This lesson walks students through a drainage test to establish a baseline for the soil in the raised planters and garden beds. This baseline will allow students to measure improvements to drainage as a result of soil amendments in the future.
Nutrients Down the Drain (Advanced)
Drainage is a double-sided attribute of the soil. Good drainage promotes plant development and poor drainage leads to nutrient runoff and soggy soil. In this lesson, students will create a plan to improve the drainage of the soil in the Lab over time.
2.5 Dirt Matters
Exploring the Aspects of Good Soil (Beginner)
Soil requires maintenance. It needs to be amended and cared for to preserve the ability to cultivate healthy harvests. This lesson explores the composition of the soil and reveals what aspects demonstrate health.
Mason Jar Testing Time (Intermediate)
There are various ways to test soil and the mason jar test is one of the more important. This lesson shows students how to perform a mason jar test to evaluate soil texture and determine which amendments are most needed to improve the soil.
It’s All About the Trees (Advanced)
Trees drop leaves. Leaves breakdown over time. The natural compost creates humus giving life to dormant seeds. Then it all starts over. This natural process is the focus in this lesson as student hit the road to see the process in nature.
2.6 The Dirt is Alive!
Exploring the Soil Food Web (Beginner)
The soil is alive, believe it or not. There are microorganisms, bacteria, and fungi all calling the soil home. In this lesson, students will explore the biota of the soil to better understand how all the residents work in concert.
The Soil Community Defined by its Residents (Intermediate)
The dirt is most certainly alive, and in fact, teeming with life in some cases. This lesson tasks students with creating a visual catalog of the critters that call the soil home.
Dirt Versus Hydro (Advanced)
Dirt is king as the saying goes but the newcomer on the block is hydroponics. In this lesson, students will evaluate the biota in both systems to see what’s really going on at the micro level.
2.7 Dirt Quiz
How to Test Soil ph (Beginner)
It’s imperative that students learn how to properly assess the soil. In this lesson, students will test the soil in the raised planters and sites outdoors to assess the pH levels.
Three Bears Experiment (Intermediate)
The impact pH has on plant development ranges across the full spectrum. In this lesson, students will experiment with different pH levels to observe the impact it has on the plants.
pH in the Wild (Advanced)
The pH level in soil can have a profound impact on plant production. In this lesson, students explore the way that nature manipulates pH and how man’s presence influences that natural order.
2.8 Testing, Testing
Soil Test for N, P, K (Beginner)
Plants use nutrients in the soil so it’s imperative that those be replaced in some way. This lesson walks students through the soil testing process to determine NPK levels and how to amend the soil for future plant production.
Test, Retest, then Test Again (Intermediate)
The food production cycle removes nutrients from the soil leaving a need for amendments to replace what was lost. This lesson helps students interpret results of the soil test to identify the nutrient deficiencies and the amendments that can be used to replenish them.
Let the Pros Handle This One (Advanced)
There are multiple tests performed in the Lab but it’s still imperative to get the feedback from outside sources. In the lesson, students will submit a soil sample to a professional testing firm and interpret the results.
2.9 Eggs, Bananas, and Coffee, Oh My!
Supercharge the Soil with Kitchen Scraps (Beginner)
Kitchen scraps are great for amending soil, particularly in raised planters or the backyard garden. This lesson explores the value of common kitchen scraps and how to use them to build soil.
Bury the Scraps (Intermediate)
Nutrient recapture has multiple affects on the garden and the planet at large. This lesson explores how nutrients can be recaptured from kitchen scraps to improve soil and ease pressure on the landfill.
Are You Going to Finish That? (Advanced)
Take a look around the room the next time you’re in a restaurant and you will see the massive amount of waste that goes back to the kitchen at the end of meal service. In this lesson, students create a plan to scale their composting operation with inputs from local sources like restaurants.
Composting for the Homeowner (University of Illinois Extension)
2.10 Good Neighbors
Basics of Companion Planting (Beginner)
Plants have friends too and their production increases when they spend time together. This lesson explores companion planting and tasks the students with developing a companion planting plan for the raised planters.
Carrots and Their Crew (Intermediate)
Companion planting can maximize yields and improve taste for many varieties. This lesson dives deep into companions, allowing students to experiment with different pairings to determine which has the most impact on carrots.
Who’s Next in Line? (Advanced)
The best farmers know what grew in this space last rotation and will will go in next. The entire planning process is designed to maintain soil health. In this lesson, students will draft their own plan for crop succession.
Fruit and Vegetable Silhouettes
Carrots Love Tomatoes (Book)
2.11 Breathing Room
Spacing Plants for Health and Yield (Beginner)
Plant spacing promotes maximum plant development by giving each the space and nutrients it needs to develop. This lesson allows students to practice their plant spacing for different varieties.
Sense and Cents (Intermediate)
A critical skill for anyone growing food commercially is the ability to forecast revenue from a harvest. This lesson helps students evaluate the market for their produce and project the potential revenue from a harvest.
Calculating Maximum Annual Revenue (Advanced)
Every farmer has a preferred approach. Some grow just a few specialty crops while others are sort of a jack-all-trades growing numerous varieties. In this lesson, students will select a few varieties and calculate the maximum annual revenue.
2.12 Moving Day!
Seeds emerge and develop into healthy plants but the next tenuous step in transplanting. This lesson exposes students to the challenges of transplanting starts and the best practices for making the transition a successful one.
Pot it Up (Intermediate)
Potting up gives young starts the room to develop a stronger root system and provides additional nutrients for uptake during this critical stage of development. This lesson teaches students how to properly pot up young starts.
This is How We Do It (Advanced)
Experience is invaluable as far as farming is concerned. You don’t know what you don’t know, right? In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to share what they do know about a single variety by creating a guide for others to reference.
2.13 Cover up!
The Benefits of Mulching (Beginner)
Mulch is a critical element of plant development. In this lesson, students will discover the value of mulch, the role it plays, and types of materials that can be used.
Mystery of Mulching (Intermediate)
Mulching helps to retain moisture in the soil that would otherwise evaporate and maintain lower soil temperatures. In this lesson, students will compare mulched and unmulched soil to observe the impact first-hand.
Sunscreen for Plants (Advanced)
Plants that are fully exposed to the sun will find it challenging to thrive with higher soil temperatures and moisture loss from evaporation. This lesson allows students to experiment with different mulches to discover the most effective type.
2.14 Mystery Diners
Identifying Common Garden Insects (Beginner)
A short stroll through any garden will reveal countless species of bugs, some harmful and others beneficial. The key is the ability to tell the difference. This lesson introduces students to the mystery diners in the garden.
Soil Surface Dwellers (Intermediate)
The surface dwelling bugs in the garden are the ones seen most often. In this lesson, students will expand the catalog of organisms found in the Lab by adding the visible surface dwellers for future reference.
Mug Shots (Advanced)
Imagine a collection of images along with descriptions of bugs that might be found in the garden. Simply flip through the catalog to identify this unknown visitor. That’s exactly what students will create in this lesson, a visual library of common garden dwellers.
Garden Insects Flash Cards
2.15 Bug out!
Nature’s Pest Control (Beginner)
Pests will find their way into the garden despite the best efforts to prevent it. This lesson explores the natural pest control methods used by organic farmers to combat infestations when they occur.
Head to Head Testing (Intermediate)
The bad bugs will come, believe that. In this lesson, students will test natural pest control methods head-to-head to prepare for future infestations. It’s better to know now what works than to scramble later for a workable solution.
A Little of This, A Little of That (Advanced)
What works to repel or eliminate one garden pest must prove to be completely ineffective for another. This lesson sets the framework for a comprehensive natural pest control guide based on A/B testing.
Bug Out! Worksheet
2.16 Mystery Diagnosis
Common Plant Problems and How to Fix Them (Beginner)
Farmers must keep an watchful eye on their crops in order to detect any problems that might present. This lesson establishes the basis for a plant inspection process that will become part of the daily routine in the Lab.
Early Warning System (Intermediate)
There are countless issues that can derail an entire harvest including developmental challenges and disease. In this lesson, students explore the plant problems as they arise and document them in a resource guide for future reference.
Picture This (Advanced)
To the naked eye, it may just seem like yellowing leaves or dust on the surface. But under a microscope the problem becomes more apparent. This lesson tasks students with taking images for the plant problem catalog.
2.17 Busy Bees
Natural and Manual Pollination Methods (Beginner)
Pollination is imperative for some plants to set fruit. The challenge indoors is the absence of the bugs, bees, and butterflies that usually do the work. This lesson explores pollination and the anatomy of a flower that makes it possible.
Be a Bee (Intermediate)
Pollination is an essential process for many plant varieties that set fruit. In this lesson, students will explore the importance of pollination and perform pollination on cukes to calculate a germination rate.
To Be Without the Bees (Advanced)
The loss of bee colonies worldwide is the canary in the coalmine indicating that there is a problem in the ecosystem. This lesson explores the implications of a world without bees and the impact that might have on agriculture.
2.18 Super Cuts
Pruning for Optimum Yield (Beginner)
Pruning is a gardener’s secret to many but holds the key to optimal growth for many plant varieties. In this lesson, students will learn to prune certain plants to maximize their yields.
Strategic Cutting (Intermediate)
Pruning can have a dramatic effect on the total production of certain plant varieties. Basil is a great example. In this lesson, students will compare the yield of pruned and unpruned basil plants to see just how effective the process can be.
Make It Climb (Advanced)
Everyone has seen ivy scaling the walls of brick buildings. But what other plants can be coaxed to do the same? This lesson challenges students to see just how much influence they can have over a specific variety.
2.19 Perfect Timing
You haven’t had a tomato until you’ve pulled one from the vine, wipe it on your shirt, and bit into it right there in the garden. It a taste unlike anything from the store and this lesson will prove that to students through a head-to-head taste test.
Dial It In (Intermediate)
Harvesting is a timing issue more than a physical act. Taste is at its peak in a short window so farmers are focused on identifying that moment before they take action. In this lesson, students will taste the varieties in the Lab to determine the days from transplant to peak harvest.
How Far is Too Far? (Advanced)
The cost of convenience is the commercial food system is taste among other things. In this lesson, students discuss how far a perfectly ripened tomato or other vegetable could travel and the implications that would have on the existing system.
Rotating Crops for Soil Health (Beginner)
Soil can be taxed heavily from mono-cropping or failure to rotate crops effectively. This lesson tasks students with creating a planting map to effectively manage plantings and to serve as a rotation plan.
Creating the Perfect Plan (Intermediate)
Nutrient depletion is a constant threat in any garden. In this lesson, students will learn to test the soil to identify which nutrients need to be replenished and learn how to achieve the results they need with amendments.
Too Many to Count (Advanced)
Industrialized agriculture is flawed at every level. This lesson challenges students to discuss the issues and consider the sizable cost that our current system has on the community, environment, and world at large.