Winter Sowing Class Prep

I really wanted to do some winter sowing with my Get Growing! class. It is a really accessible way for people to start plants from seeds in cold climates without fancy lights and other supplies. I also like that you can see and feel the way sunlight warms the air inside the bottles and evaporated water condenses on the plastic. Because the weather is warming up quickly, I wanted to fit winter sowing and bean experiment observations into the same lesson, and decided do most of the bottle prep ahead of time.

My sister-in-law helped me collect a dozen 1-liter seltzer bottle that looked exactly alike. Perceived equality is very important and can really slow things down if you have to reassure the young persons that milk jugs are not better or worse than soda jugs, they just look different. True, "Sometimes, everyone doesn't get the same thing" is an important life lesson, but not one I have time to focus on in my hour of garden instruction.

I stabbed holes in the bottoms and cut the bottles in half with a sharp knife. (Use a knife you can sharpen, a dozen plastic bottles takes a toll on a nice blade) Older students might be able to prep bottles with a sharp pair of scissors and supervision, but this is not a task for one adult and a dozen exuberant 1st graders.

I took the bottle bottoms out to the porch and filled them with potting soil from our class soil bin. It technically isn't a mess if you are outside.

Dry potting soil shifts and settles a lot as you hydrate it. I soaked the soil very thoroughly so we wouldn't need to add additional water in class. Transport the bottles to class in something that will catch the drips and keep things from falling over.

I used the "tab system" for fitting bottle tops onto bottoms, but it was too tricky for small hands. Walking around the room with a roll of packing tape might have been simpler.

I spent way too much time making up lovely little seed packs and labels for a nice range of pollinator attracting flowers. The students with less developed small-motor skills had a tough time with the envelopes and even though I tried to choose larger seeds, some were still challenged. Next time I may just give everyone a scoop of zinnia and marigold seeds and call it a day.

This was a lovely successful completion of my activity sheet for winter sowing but most of the class had run out of "follow directions juice" by that point. Timing and mood-wise, a circle game would have been more appropriate.

Also, everyone was completely distracted by the paperclips. Sometimes I forget how exciting a colorful paperclip can be when you are six years old.

There are definitely challenges, but the kids are learning and having fun and I'm loving it!