Planting Seeds of Learning in SEL

staff at Kiest Elementary

Kiest Elementary has been pulling weeds and planting seeds of learning in SEL both literally and figuratively in their school garden! Kiest’s beautiful school garden and outdoor classroom spaces are taken care of by school staff, students, and outside volunteers. Over the last two years, Teaching Assistant and former Kiest parent Maria Amaya, teacher Mr. Leon, and SEL Specialist Christina Kelso, among others have joined together to combine SEL with gardening activities, family engagement events, and out of school time service-learning projects to grow a love of and connection to our school garden.

This year, Ms. Amaya, who spends much of her own free time (including all summer!) making sure that the garden is thriving, will be working one full day every six weeks with Kiest students creating experiential learning projects and lessons in the outdoor classrooms. The first garden learning day was a huge success! The garden learning day organizers, which included representatives from the school, DISD, Big Thought, and family volunteers, created various activities to teach students how to work in the garden. All the activities were designed to align with the SEL Core 4: Relationships, Resilience, Engagement, and Environment. All students in grades 2nd through 5th, along with their teachers, were invited to spend an hour-long class block in the garden rotating through the interactive gardening and SEL activities.

Students discussed their sense of belonging in the garden. By learning how to take care of the garden, they discovered living things and showed their resilience by participating in garden yoga. They also demonstrated creativity and engagement by making windsocks and reading a story called “Everyone Needs a Rock.” Students interacted with the environment by learning how to compost and take care of our community. We are looking forward to many more engaging garden learning days this year!