Garden Immersion Week
Student Engagement
Place of Learning: 
Grade Level: 

ESY Berkeley Teaching Staff
Edible Schoolyard Project
Berkeley, CA

In an Immersion Week, students come to the garden every day for a week. Our seventh-grade classes come for two weeks of immersion, one in each semester. Eighth-grade classes come for one week in the spring. Classes last 45 minutes to an hour on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and about 90 minutes on Thursday and Friday.
Garden Tracks

Distinct from our typical sixth-grade lessons in which students choose from a variety of garden jobs as part of Opening Circle, in Immersion Weeks students choose one “track” to follow for the entire week even before they come to the garden. Each garden teacher designs a track based on their own interests, specializations, and the needs of the garden. In some cases, all the tracks will follow variations on a single overarching theme that connects to students’ academic learning. For example, in the first seventh-grade rotation, each track explored some facet of ecosystems. Immersion weeks are also an excellent opportunity to engage in project-based learning— many of our tracks culminate in a tangible goal.

Selecting Tracks

In the weeks before students are scheduled to come to the garden, garden teachers visit students’ science classrooms to present descriptions of each track option. Students then have the opportunity to indicate their personal preferences for which track they follow by ranking the options from top to least favorite. The voting process gives choice and flexibility to the students, which helps to inspire buy- in and set up the dynamics of the groups for success. See this sample ballot for reference – PDF.

Immersion in the Garden
Opening Circle

Just like our typical sixth-grade garden class, the rst lesson of the week begins with an Opening Circle (thereafter students meet with their track groups in a designated spot). We use the Opening Circle to welcome students and frame the week. Garden teachers rotate the role of facilitating opening circle.

  • Introduce the week’s immersion tracks. Remind students that they voted for their tracks beforehand and the garden teachers did their best to give students their rst or second choice.
  • Answer questions about how the week will run, reminding students that they will not meet in their classroom for the remainder of the week, but will meet at a designated spot identi ed by their group leader.
  • Divide into track groups.


In the Field

After opening circle, students break up into their track groups. Each group has an average of 6-8 students and one garden teacher.

  • Check-in question and review of the week and the goals.
  • On the first day, a meet-up spot in the garden is identified for the rest of the week.
  • Each track group works on their goals and projects for the week.


Closing Circle

Immersion Weeks culminate in a Closing Circle. One group prepares a tasting, which tends to be more substantial and elaborate than the tastings in our sixth-grade classes—kale pesto on bread, salad wraps with fava bean puree, and oven- roasted carrots and beets are some of our favorites. The tasting serves as the centerpiece of the Closing Circle as groups have the opportunity to reflect and share with one another their experiences and successes from the week.

  • The tasting is introduced and served in the Ramada. Students wait to eat until everyone has been served.
  • Groups report back after the tasting. Each group has the opportunity to share thoughts, stories, successes, and learning from the week.
  • We open the door for appreciations and shout-outs, if time permits.
Sample Garden Immersion Tracks
Cabbage Patch Kids With Mr. Jason
  • During this week, we will focus on planting out our cabbage patch. Did you know that the fermented food kimchi is made from cabbage? It is believed to have healthy bacteria called lactobacilli and if eaten regularly has many medicinal properties. Our week will start off with some team building and trust activities, with the hope of creating a strong bond together. We’ll continue with the week by preparing and cultivating garden beds, amending the soil with our beautiful black gold compost and eventually transplanting, mulching and tunneling the beds of cabbage to protect them from the chickens.


A Little Bit of Everything With Ms. Ashlee
  • Hello gardeners! During our week together we will have the opportunity to focus on many different types of projects in a specific area in the garden. For the first part of the week we will cultivate and plant a lettuce and radish patch. We will then finish off the week with pulling out an old flower bed. This will include harvesting flower seeds, making seed packets, and cultivating the soil. We will have the chance to use tools such as shovels, digging forks, clippers, and loppers. Throughout the week we will observe the changes happening in this space through our hard work and dedication.
Construct This With Eli
  • Greetings Earth dwellers! In this track we will be exploring our abilities to build structures that support various functions and happenings in the garden realm. We will construct a few fences, reshape a hillside with a sleek flight of stairs. We will working with materials such as metal, concrete and the earth itself. Drills, saws, rocks and wood may also come into play. Some of us may bleed or catch a splinter, some of us may fall down a hill, some us may leave covered in sweat, but we will survive and our garden will thrive because we were there.