Potato Plants
I passed out slips of paper with images of a plant growing at various stages of its life cycle. At the top of the sheet, it read, “Can you guess what’s growing in these pictures? They are all pictures of the same type of plant!” The Fourth Graders murmured in their table groups, and I brought the class together with a quick, “Apple, Apple!” And the class responded, “Orange, Orange!”

“Ladies and gentlemen, what is growing in these pictures?”

  • “Peppers!”
  • “Tomatoes!”
  • “Carrots!”
  • “Peas!”

I prompt the class, “What about potatoes?!?”

The class explodes with excitement, and murmurs about potatoes.

“Where are the potatoes in this picture?” I asked the students inquisitively.

The class exclaims, “Below the ground!”

When I first approached the Lakeside Elementary Fourth Grade Teachers about continuing Food Corps Lesson with their classes, they were very excited. The expressed interest in growing food inside the classroom. However, they wanted to grow FOOD, and were not interested in growing ditzy salad greens, that were only enough to serve one tiny leaf morsel to each student. No, they wanted substantial food that they could watch grow, then cook a meal!

Montana has a short growing season that is not often conducive to school gardens, and the school calendar year. Students are able to plant seeds in the Spring, but then Summer roles around and their are no students to tend to the garden, watch the plants grow, and experience the wonders of gardening. When the school year begins again in Fall, the garden is ready to harvest and the preparations are made to put the garden to bed. These teachers at Lakeside Elementary wanted their students to experience planting, tending, and harvesting their own food in one clean swoop of a school year!

Sprouted Potato

So, we are now growing potatoes in the classroom! We sprouted the potatoes in the windowsill, and are observing their growth by drawing pictures at two week intervals. We will plant the potatoes in large buckets, and sit them in the windowsill, while learning about what a plant needs to grow. The students brainstormed what else they would like to learn about with potatoes, and I will be incorporating World Potato History, Montana Potato History, and Potato Nutrition into my other gardening and nutrition lessons. The potatoes will, hopefully, be ready to harvest by March or April, and the Fourth Graders will prepare a Potato Feast.

Potatoes are stock full of nutrition and history. They are relatively easy to grow indoors, and wonderful to watch. They sprout dramatically, and look like strange aliens emerging from a brown planet. Potatoes are easy to cook, and most kiddos like to eat them! Potatoes are perfect for nutrition and gardening education!

If you are interested in growing your own potatoes with students check out this wonderful resource: Grow Your Own Potatoes.

Madeline Halverson

Madeline Halverson
North Shore Compact
Somers, Bigfork, Cayuse Prairie, and Somers

Madeline loves seeing different types of people working the land together to make a more sustainable environment. For her Senior Capstone Project at the University of Montana, Madeline worked with the Bike Walk Alliance for Missoula and FreeCycles. She and four other students developed the foundations for the newest biking event for Missoula, the Missoula Bike Swap. The event raised a couple thousand dollars for the non-profits to support further biking infrastructure, education and other initiatives for the Missoula community. The number of people that came out to “swap” bikes was overwhelming, surprising, and wonderful. In ten years, Madeline sees herself back in her hometown of Spokane, WA connecting local farmers to city consumers, developing a network of community gardens, and increasing education about local food in schools. Down the road, Madeline would love to open a small business related to gardening, local food, and community gathering.