Growing gardens promotes digital confidence

Issue: Volume 98, Number 2

Posted: 7 February 2019
Reference #: 1H9r17

Teachers and students are embracing the new Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko curriculum content by getting their hands dirty.

Seedlings ‘harden off’ (transition to outdoor life) on the roof of Remarkables Primary School.

While the environment plays an important role in Kiwi culture, there has been concern that young people today are more interested in gadgets. A new resource combining knowledge of nature with the new digital technologies curriculum content is piquing interest in both areas.

The Electric Garden(external link) includes a sensor for students to install in their garden. It measures soil temperature, soil moisture, air temperature, humidity and the amount of light. Students can then log into an online classroom portal to see the garden’s progress.

The resource also includes online lesson plans which unpack the digital technologies curriculum content against the visual garden growing cycle for teachers, as well as student lesson plans for self-guided learning.

Remarkables Primary School technology and STEM teacher Sarah Washbrooke used the resource with three Year 4 classes last year. The same students will extend the project as part of their Year 5 curriculum this year.

“It wasn’t just a kit, it was a programme of work that we were following as well. We followed the overall guidelines for that and then we tweaked it to our students,” Sarah says.

Sarah says the resource helped her students to learn about creating in the digital world, rather than simply using systems.

“It’s allowed our students to be creative in a few different ways, predominantly in programming and using different programmes to create,” she says.

“They looked at different plants and how they were growing, and then they animated the lifecycle of a plant … we had different kinds of challenges for them so they could actually develop animations, games and experiments.

“They did soil moisture testing too, so that allowed them to create a programme to develop timers. They weren’t just using, they were using for a purpose and creating digital outcomes.”

Integrating new digital technologies into local curriculum

As the STEM specialist in her school, Sarah worked alongside other teachers to help them understand the new digital technologies progress outcomes and other New Zealand Curriculum learning. Seeing the links between technology and other areas has helped them to become more confident to include the digital content, she says.

“This year they could do something similar because we’ve still got the Electric Garden kit set up and we’ve still got access to the app. What we really liked about it was they could actually see how digital technologies content could be fully integrated within other subjects.

“If they’re doing maths, for example, the statistical data that’s coming through from the graph and looking at temperature and also measurement could be used for real-life authentic purposes, rather than just a standalone lesson,” she says.

Students test soil moisture.

“We have a whole set of new teachers now with those students, so that knowledge is now going to be spread to other teachers as well.”

As well as skills related to the achievement objectives of The New Zealand Curriculum, the school has also used the Electric Garden to deliver learning around the Key Competencies.

“A lot of our students are working collaboratively together, in small groups and as a whole class as well. They’ve gained more confidence with being able to stand up and present to the rest of the class; they’re showing people what they’re doing so there’s communication skills too.”

Combining nature and technology

The Electric Garden kit was developed by Digital Future Aotearoa, which runs national digital enablement projects such as She Can Code and Code Club Aotearoa. Code Club Aotearoa General Manager Michael Trengrove says the resource was created by looking at the whole needs of children and their learning.

The first giant pumpkin.

“We wanted children to learn new ways to engage with nature and the environment while having a modern, cutting-edge digital technologies education,” he says.

“How can we continue to pass down knowledge and wisdom from the generations around gardening, nature and the environment, and bring in the technology and the digital side of those outdoor activities in a meaningful way?”

Development of the resource began last year with 75 primary schools piloting the programme. The team aims for full national availability by October this year.

Although students involved in the pilot were from Years 1–8, the kit can be tailored for use with students at any level.

The teacher lesson plans, which not only outline the activities but also how they connect with the revised technology learning area, has received positive feedback from teachers, Michael says.

“For teachers who don’t have a background in digital technologies or coding and are apprehensive being able to take their children through this, to be able to see and dissect for themselves how this aligns to the new curriculum content has been a really powerful tool to onboarding brand-new teachers into this space.”

Year 4 students learn how to sort data through the sorting network. 

Need help?

A range of professional learning support(external link) to introduce the revised technology area and strategies around how to teach the new curriculum content in the classroom is available. 


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:10 PM, 7 February 2019

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