MARSHALL - Hands-on learning was in full bloom Monday at Park Side Elementary School as two groups of eager learners came together for a fun, educational project.
First- and second-grade English Language Learner (ELL) students paired up with Adult Basic Education students who are learning English as a Second Language (ESL) to share in a unique opportunity provided by a Youth as Resources (YAR) grant. Thanks to the "Reading and Planting Seeds" grant, the students learned how plants grow and were then able to plant their own flowers to take home.
"I liked planting the flowers," Park Side student Keylin Amador said.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Marshall Adult Basic Education instructor Paulette Hanson, right, assists Dahir Deekow, a Park Side English Language Learner, get ready to plant a petunia to take home. The project was part of a Youth As Resources grant that brought together ELL students from Park Side and ESL students from Adult Basic Education. Together, the classes learned about the growing process, read books to each other and planted their own flowers.
Kristi Wiese, ELL teacher at Park Side, and adult ESL instructor Paulette Hanson applied for the grant together. Their students had worked together one other time, in February, for "I Love to Read" month and both teachers had found the interaction to be extremely beneficial.
"Both classes are learning reading skills, so it's nice to have them read back and forth," Hanson said. "My students seemed to enjoy working with the kids. I thought it went well."
To start the project, everyone gathered around as Wiese read from "Bean," a story about how a bean seed grows. Concentration was a challenge for the elementary students as they kept peeking over at the pink petunias waiting to be planted. But they did grasp the concept pretty quickly, especially after taking turns reading the book to each other in small groups.
"I liked the book," Park Side student Mohamed Mohamed said. "I learned how a bean grows."
ESL student Evangelina Saldana took turns reading with her daughter, Julissa Saldana, and Ruby Diaz.
"I enjoy it," Evangelina Saldana said. "I learn something new every day."
Saldana has been taking Adult Basic Education classes for a year.
"I wanted to improve my English and computer skills," she said. "I'm learning."
Hanson said that her students often come and go throughout the year.
"They come to better their English skills," Hanson said. "We get some to attend through the Work Force. We also put an ad in the Hy-Vee Trader, but mostly it's word of mouth through friends."
Sometimes, Hanson said, attendance can be inconsistent because of job situations, but she sees good progress in most of her students.
"They're very hard workers and very motivated," Hanson said. "It's a long process, but you can definitely see improvement."
Wiese explained that there were a lot of different tools that can be used for planting, including a shovel or spade, rake, watering can and gardening gloves.
"Some of the students have planted seeds before and some haven't," Wiese said. "But most of them don't know the names of the tools."
After getting acquainted with the necessary equipment, everyone took turns picking out their own colorful flower pot and headed over to the plastic tarp area. Elementary student Maria Duran chose a red pot.
"I have lots of flowers outside at my home," she said. "My favorite flowers are white, purple and yellow."
Not surprisingly, Duran's favorite part of the day was planting the flowers. After filling pots with potting soil, each student planted two petunias and a few zinnia, snapdragon or bachelor button seeds.
"The flowers need air, sun and water," Duran said. "And, space."
ELL student Ruweda Deekow kept adding more and more seeds until Wiese explained that there wouldn't be enough room in her pot for too many flowers. Classmate Alexis Esparza enjoyed taking the gardening gloves off and on as he tried to make sure the soil and flowers were just the way he wanted them. Afterwards, the younger students carefully watered their new seedlings.
"The kids have been so excited to do this," Wiese said. "The vocabulary is the hardest part, so we've been talking about it for awhile. It went well."
ESL student Habon Osman really liked planting the flowers and helped make up some extra pots for various classrooms at Park Side.
"It was fun," Osman said. "I have not ever done it before. I like the classes, too. I'm learning a lot."
With the exception of the garden tools, which were borrowed, the YAR grant funded everything. Students were able to bring their own book and flower pot home with them to nurture and grow, much like their own educational advancement.
The best part, Wiese said, was seeing everyone enjoy new experiences.
"They're just so excited to do something they've never done before," she said. "It's fun to make something like that educational. It was a great experience."