Multilingual Story Garden

Emma Jones, Global Academy at the International Welcome Center, Kansas City, Missouri

A community garden not only adds beauty to a school but also instills pride in the students that help build it. By utilizing best practices for English learners (ELs), students visited a local community garden in the city to learn about gardening and sustainability. They also participated in a story walk led by bilingual interpreters. Local community partners shared how to create gardens at home and provided materials to help support a family-engagement event.

Goals

Our multiliteracy story garden is designed to excite students about literacy and to get their families involved in their learning. We learned early on that many families liked to garden or grow plants in their home country. We hoped that by using gardening as a theme, we could engage all families in a literacy night and provide them with materials to start a home garden. 

Unfortunately, many of our students and their families experienced interrupted formal education. As emergent ELs, many students lack confidence to speak or write in English. Utilizing bilingual resources provided students the opportunity to engage equally in this experience. Our third through sixth grade students participated, but this project could be adapted for younger learners. 

Timeline

Part 1- Scheduling Trips and Purchasing Materials

First, we scheduled a field trip to Kansas City Community Gardens. We purchased supplies such as metal loose-leaf rings, mini voice recorders, table place card holders and three large books about gardening to use for our story walks. Our school provided lanyards, and community partners and individuals donated additional supplies such as soil and seeds.

Part 2- School Garden Visit and Story Walk

Students took a tour of the early learning school’s community garden and thought about the driving question, "How can growing a garden benefit me?" Students walked around in groups as bilingual educators translated the story Planting a Rainbow in Spanish, Swahili, Pashto, and Dari. According to the Kellogg-Hubbard Library, story walks are, 

"…an innovative and delightful way for children —and adults— to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time. Laminated pages from a children's book are attached to wooden stakes, which are installed along an outdoor path. As you stroll down the trail, you're directed to the next page in the story."

After listening to the translated story, we reread and discussed the story in English. We shared our plans to host a family night and take a trip to the local community garden. The students were excited and invited their families with translated invitations.

Part 3- Family Event Night

The days leading up to our event were spent preparing and translating materials. Students read short stories and articles from Scholastic SuperScience and News 1 related to plants and gardening. Vocabulary flip cards were created to help ELs review science terms. Thanks to the help from paras, we wrote down the words in their native languages too!

Students took home a bilingual invitation and families received event reminders via a school messenger app. 

At the event, attendees were excited to paint their flowerpots and receive materials to start a home garden. I suggested they paint meaningful attributes such as national flags, family names, or shared hobbies on their pot. Then, children glued pictures of the type of seed on table place signs so they could remember which vegetable would grow. Families enjoyed writing a cloze book in English related to gardening that they could take home. Finally, we enjoyed snacks provided by a local church that partners with our school. 

Note- activity is hyperlinked.

Part 4- Field Trip to Beanstalk Children’s Garden

Students took a trip to the Beanstalk Children’s Garden and wore a lanyard with a mini voice recorder attached so they could document their trip verbally. The tour guide was exceptionally kind and even spoke a lot of Spanish! We had the opportunity to try different types of fresh produce and even took home vegetable sprouts. Classes spent the next few days listening to their recordings and reflecting on the trip.

 

Budget

What Did it Look Like?

   

Note- the two reflections are hyperlinked.

Reflection on the Project

Out of all the components of the grant, the family engagement night and trip to the Beanstalk Children’s Garden were most successful and supportive of multiliteracy. 

Due to the weather, the story walk took place indoors, but students still enjoyed the experience of hearing a story in their first language while moving around the room. Students were captivated by the visuals, however; a follow up speaking or writing activity might have enhanced their participation.

Students enjoyed using their voice recorders during the community garden field trip. The recorders brought the kids out of their comfort zones, and I can see a huge benefit of using these in the classroom too! Students listened to their recordings and completed a virtual reflection sheet. However, we had some difficulties, and I would recommend buying recorders with auto playback features rather than relying on a computer to listen to recordings.

Unfortunately, many students said that they could not attend the family event due to work schedules or lack of transportation. Families arrived at staggered times, which made it difficult to carry out the activities we had planned. In the future I would use Talking Points or WhatsApp to find out which families needed transportation. I would also budget for interpreting services at the event, which I failed to consider when writing the proposal. My principal told me that this was a fantastic family activity, and we began to brainstorm improvements for future events. 

Multilingual Story Garden

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