Common Assessments in the Garden
Place of Learning: 

ESY Berkeley Teaching Staff
Edible Schoolyard Project
Berkeley, CA

In the garden, we rely on a variety of practices to assess our teaching and our students’ knowledge. Reporting out in a group setting, playing interactive games, and applying skills in the field can be used successfully throughout garden class as assessment practices.
Assessment Practices
  • Share an Observation/One Thing You Learned: We often use this assessment following our tastings or at the changing of the seasons. Each student shares one observation she/he/they has made. You can use a posted sentence structure to make this activity accessible to all learners (“I notice that my ________ tastes/looks/feels/smells/sounds like ________.”).
  • Think-Pair-Share: Students turn to a partner and share their answers to the posed question. This is a great way to involve students who are more timid and avoid raising their hands even if they know the answer. This is another optimal time to use a posted sentence structure to support the students’ conversations.
  • Hold Up Your Five Fingers: This assessment can be used at the beginning and end of the lesson as a temperature check of knowledge.
  • Report-Outs: In closing circle, we often ask one or two representatives from each working group to share out a summary of what their group accomplished in class or a highlight from their time working together.
  • Wind Blows Game: This game is similar to musical chairs in that the objective is to find a seat within the circle (with one less seat than the number of participants). One person stands at the front of the Ramada and reads a statement on a card beginning with “The wind blows...” If the statement applies to them, students get up and switch places with another student. The last student remaining then reads the next statement. The subject matter of the cards can be changed to fit any lesson (Examples: “The wind blows if you cultivated a bed today.” “The wind blows for anyone who saw a pollinator today.” “The wind blows if you can name one method of water conservation.”).
  • Appreciations: We allow time for students to share written or verbal appreciations for each other, teachers, and other organisms in the garden ecosystem. For example, after a lesson on the carbon cycle, students wrote appreciations for our Grandmother Oak tree and hung them from her branches.
  • Success in the Field: Teachers are consistently observing and guiding student engagement in field activities. Teachers will often demonstrate garden tasks and give students the opportunity to practice these tasks independently. Teachers can then assess the efficacy of their instructions and give feedback as needed. Teachers also encourage students to teach each other, which develops student leadership and provides information to the teachers about what information students retain, as well as what they find important enough to convey, about the task at hand. Teachers can identify potential student leaders using temperature checks, or pre-assessments, to gauge students’ prior knowledge.