Tending Your Garden
You’d never know it by looking at my yard right now, but I have a thing for gardens. I recently had a chance to visit one that is especially beautiful and quite unexpected. The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, is 140 acres of dry, hot land that is full of some of the most amazing plants, including saguaro and organ-pipe cacti that can reach heights of 20 feet. There is color from plants such as the purple of a prickly-pear cactus and from blooms, including the yellow of the blackfoot daisy flower. The horticulturists on staff do breathtaking things in this arid climate to not only get the native plants to grow beyond normal expectations, but to coax some of the harder-to-grow plants that need a little extra care to thrive in this dry region.
If you drive just a few miles down the road, you’ll find one of the many golf courses in Arizona. Here you’ll find an abundance of plants, trees, and grasses that are far from native to the area and need an inordinate amount of water and attention to survive. Huge expanses of Bermuda grass are not a naturally occurring phenomenon in the Southwest, but they are a common site surrounded by golf carts and numbered flags.
Hit the highway and drive to the outskirts of town and you’ll find hardy plants, shrubs, and flowering cacti growing as far as the eye can see. These plants have found a way to grow and bloom in the harsh climate, conserving water during periods of drought, storing water during a brief rainstorm, and enduring hours of direct sunlight and high temperatures for months at a time. This desert is anything but barren.
As a science leader and educator, you are a gardener as well, tending to some fertile ground that has the potential to produce incredible things. You have numerous horticulturists on staff, including the science teachers tending to the valuable resource of our young learners. How should you divide your time as you tend your garden?
Things that are easy to grow
Start tending the things in your garden that are the easiest to grow. This might include supporting the basic curriculum that should be happening in every classroom. Visit your strong teachers to see what they are doing to foster success that could be replicated in other classrooms. Observe and interview students who are finding science success to find out what strategies work for them and what they find most interesting and appealing. You can learn a lot from sitting back and watching the magic happen. On a side note, your strongest teachers need encouragement and praise just like all teachers do, but they are sometimes the teachers who receive the least support because they are high performers even without any intervention.
Things that take a little work to grow
Where are the places that need just a little adjustment to become amazing? You probably have teachers and classrooms that have a lot going for them but need just a little push to help them soar. You might need to send a particular teacher or team to a professional development session, share a classroom management strategy, or just make sure teachers know where to go to get the necessary resources. You might need to cover a class so that a teacher can visit another classroom to see science in action. You’ll see a huge return on your investment by tending to these teachers.
Things that require more effort to grow
Some teachers or classrooms have a lot of growth that needs to occur, but drill down to look for one or two things that can make a difference for students. You could suggest a new room arrangement so that students can collaborate and teachers can have easy access to assist students. You might need to schedule a weekly planning session with an individual teacher or a team to ensure that the scope and sequence is driving the lessons and that sound instructional practices are implemented regularly. These classes might take a little more tending, so allow time in your schedule for more frequent visits and invest in resources that make a difference.
Science education is an ever-changing landscape with an endless variety of learners. So whether a student is quick to pick up a new concept, needs a little more time to blossom, or just has a prickly personality, it’s our job to fill their environment with quality learning experiences so they have endless options now and in the future. Who knows, you may have a few young horticulturists in your midst.
Click the link below to see some of the quality science professional development offered at Region 4 this school year.