The National Center for Quality Afterschool

Science After School (SAS) Consumers Guide  

Expert Reviews for

You are viewing a review written for EarthBox, a resource in the Science Afterschool Consumers Guide.

Click the "Resource Details" tab below to view the full resource description.


Community Reviews
No reviews on file.
Rate this resource
  Afterschool Expert   Science Expert  

Review Synopsis: by afterschool program expert Judy Caplan

EarthBox engages students in the hands-on experience of growing and utilizing plants in our everyday lives. While some lessons are more appropriate than others for an afterschool setting, there is much here that could form the basis of many engaging activities for an afterschool program. Implementation of this program works best if a program site has for growing vegetables, and if the program is able to purchase multiple EarthBox kits so as to able to engage multiple groups of students in the gardening activities.
Full Review:
The EarthBox kit that was reviewed for the Consumers Guide is designed for use with middle school students. The activities support instructors, even those with somewhat limited access to actual outdoor gardens, who want to teach middle school students about growing plants and how we use them our everyday lives. Similar kits are available for elementary and high school students as well, but those were not reviewed here.

The lesson plans are organized around five topics: water, light, soil, plants and plant production, and nutrition. Each of the lessons is well organized, provides detailed instructions, and includes needed materials and a suggested time frame. The materials provide a good explanation of the science behind the activity and, therefore, should provide activity leaders with enough information to feel comfortable doing the exercises. Many of the lessons include supplementary activities that incorporate language arts and creative arts applications.

The "Garden Student Activity Guide," which includes pre-garden activities, a workforce development section, and a set of lessons on data collection and analysis, was designed specifically for extended learning settings and can be used in conjunction with the “Science Through Life” materials or independently. The pre-garden activities contain a series of lessons on nutrition and crop selection. The workforce development section guides participants through the steps needed to grow, market, and sell crops within the community. The third set of lessons stress data collection and analysis skills as students are guided through a process to document conditions that impact crop yield. This section is the least applicable to the majority of afterschool programs. Only programs that could commit to the crop-growing activities would find students engaged enough to complete what are otherwise rather conventional data collection exercises.

The EarthBox guides provide a wealth of materials and general information about plants and gardening. There are sufficient resources in this kit to provide ample opportunities for afterschool students to experience and learn about plants, their care and uses. There is some degree of variation among the more than 300 pages of text and support materials, so the EarthBox is best suited for instructors willing to engage in some planning and review, and with the inclination to read through and determine which activities are appropriate.

Access to a space to leave the EarthBox is a critical component to successfully using these materials. The activities might work best for an afterschool program working with a classroom program studying plants or for a summer program.

The EarthBox materials provide many references to electronic resources, which, while convenient if instructors have access to the Internet, may present a challenge if computer resources are not available. Kit prices range from approximately $100 for one kit and materials for PreK to first graders to $325 for high school kits and lab exercises.  See the Resource Description for costs of kits and lessons for afterschool participants you serve.