Sprouting Science

Sprouting Science logo

Over the past decade, researchers have been confirming what Early Childhood educators already knew: that the great outdoors provides the ideal environment for the very experiences that best support growth in Early Childhood: motor skills development, inquiry, exploration and experimentation. Unfortunately, urban Early Childhood educators face some very real obstacles to taking students outdoors, such as:

  1. Student, teacher and parent apprehension about safety in the outdoors.
  2. School campuses with limited space for quality nature experiences.
  3. School/district policies and practices that hinder frequent, routine visits to nearby parks, gardens and other outdoor spaces.
  4. Limited time with students.

With support from Boeing and other partners, the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Sprouting Science team seeks to engage with educators and unpack these challenges, exploring solutions and developing knowledge and strategies that will empower them to make changes.

Participants in the 2018 Sprouting Science Program Will:

Teacher helping young children plant a schoolyard gardenTake part in hands-on professional development workshops that introduce and discuss standards-based best practices around Early Childhood outdoor education,

Design a simple landscaping project for their schoolyard and see it to completion with plants, supplies and tools supplied by the Missouri Botanical Garden,

Engage with their students' families and local communities by planning and executing a schoolyard event with support from the Garden Education team, and

Learn how to seamlessly incorporate outdoor experiences into their existing work with students, and do so safely and effectively.

Additional Incentives

Participant teachers and administrators are eligible to receive a stipend of up to $250 each for their participation in this program.

Early Childhood professional development credits and Missouri Workshop Clock Hour credit options are also available.


2018–2019 Sprouting Science Program

Teachers at professional development workshopParticipants:
  • Teams of early childhood educators (PreK–Grade 2) comprising up to two teachers and one administrator from public schools, Head Start centers and childcare providers throughout the St. Louis metropolitan region who complete and submit an application to participate.
  • PreK–Grade 2 students and their families 
  • Community/neighborhood partners
Project term:

January 2018–May 2019

Please note:  Applications to this program may be submitted by any school or child development center that serves children between the ages of 3 and 7 years of age, including those who have participated in the program in the past. However, to be considered for acceptance, teams MUST comprise at least one administrator and two classroom teachers, and may not include more than five members total.

Outcomes Two girls planting in their schoolyard
  • Educators and family caregivers will develop greater familiarity with the nature in their campuses and communities. 
  • Educators and family caregivers will learn strategies for creating effective, beneficial outdoor learning experiences for students within their school and home environments.
  • Students will exhibit greater confidence, increased willingness and eagerness to explore and ask questions, and effective exploration behaviors.
  • Educators will connect with peers in the St. Louis region to cooperatively develop strategies around developing an outdoor learning culture in their schools and communities.
  • Educators demonstrate increased confidence regarding decision-making and action planning around development and maintenance of natural spaces within the schoolyard.
  • Student families and community stakeholders will increase their awareness of, appreciation for and stewardship of their local nature spaces.
Summary of Activities
Professional development workshops
Garden staff will design and present four (4) Sprouting Science professional development workshops per year around topics relating to schoolyard development, outdoor education and urban ecology.

School garden planting
Participants will receive all necessary guidance and materials, and access to tools and equipment in order to establish educationally-enriching nature spaces on their school’s grounds for use with students.

Family nightStudent field trips
Boeing-funded scholarships will be provided to all participants wishing to attend field trip programs (including Garden Classes and Guided Tours) on the Missouri Botanical Garden grounds during 2018–2019.

School-based family events
Garden educators will facilitate a Sprouting Science activity/experience for one family event at each participating school building.

Family Night at the Garden
Garden educators will host a Family Night event at the Missouri Botanical Garden, to which participating teachers, students and their families will be invited.

Summer reading program
Garden educators will produce and distribute the Tales & Trails summer reading program to participating schools, encouraging students to pair age-appropriate books with outdoor nature exploration during the summer.
Evaluation Girl filling pot with soil
Participant surveys
Participating teachers and administrators will complete three surveys during the course of the program, the responses to which will illustrate progress in terms of familiarity with and knowledge about local ecology, confidence around outdoor learning in early childhood and its benefits to students and changing pedagogy and practices.

Family and community surveys
Surveys will also be administered during family and community events to assess community awareness of local ecology concerns as well as attitudes and concerns regarding outdoor learning and local nature spaces.

Participation statistics
Garden educators will track participation in all grant-based activities for reporting purposes and to assess the scope of potential impact.

Participant collateral
Participants will also be asked to complete and submit workshop-related collateral for evaluation, including (but not limited to) a year-long learning plan for students in which outdoor learning opportunities are identified, a schoolyard development proposal and a journal describing garden- and schoolyard-related observations and self-reflection.

Classroom observations
Two classroom observations will be performed per teacher, one during Spring of 2018 and another during Fall of 2018. These observations will use a rubric to assess teacher strategies observed during outdoor learning experiences, as well as student behaviors and inquiry.

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