Learning Soil Basics and Exploring Plant Parts: Boys Club Dig into STEM in the Garden

Week three of Children’s Garden at Campos’ summer program with the Boys Club of New York is behind us and the garden is in full production. Five classes of boys ages 8 to 11 visit the garden each week to learn the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills that gardening can help foster. As we told you previously, we are covering a range of classes that incorporate STEM topics into basic gardening:

Week #1: Intro to Gardening, Tools, and Plant Tour/Tasting

Week #2: Soil and Worm Exploration, Composting Basics

Week #3: Plant Part Basics

Week #4: Herbs and Companion Plants (and busy bees!)

Week #5: Life of the Tomato

Week #6: Seed Starting and Direct Seeding

End of Summer Harvest Feast

Here’s a rundown of the last couple of weeks’ topics:  Soil and Worm Exploration, and Plant Part Basics:

Boys Club 9 year olds at Campos


Getting the Dirt on Soil and Worms

In this lesson, the boys learned about where our fruits and vegetables grow, the soil, and its components. We discussed the importance of soil in our lives and examined closely what soil is made of, including organic and inorganic material.

Ian Weill teaches 8 year olds about soil health
Learning the organic and inorganic components of soil

soilprofile (1)

The kids then learned how to perform a soil analysis and took soil samples back to the clubhouse classroom to experiment and plot the results to determine the precise characteristics of the soil in the Children’s Garden at Campos.

Soil Analysis (1)
Soil experiment for determining soil composition
analysis chart (1)
How to plot the results

And they learned a bit about the anatomy of the hardworking worms that help make our soil and compost.

Earthworm (1)
Worm info sheet from NYC’s compost project
Compost tea steeping in the sun


And now we eat! The boys tried lemon cucumber slices with dill pesto (recipe below), made from the garden’s runaway dill supply, and also made cucumber sandwiches with mint, nasturium flowers and pesto.

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Fresh sliced lemon cucumber with dill pesto (photo courtesy of Erin Hodges)
Cucumber sandwiches with mint, nasturium flowers and pesto


Dill Pesto

2 cups fresh dill
½ cup fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
½ cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
¼-½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Place the first 9 ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse to rough chop. Add olive oil through chute in a slow stream until it forms a smooth paste, about 30 seconds.
  2. Remove contents of food processor into a medium bowl. Stir in parmesan cheese. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon to taste.
  3. Use on bread, cucumber slices, add to lamb or salmon burgers, stir into sauces, hummus or yogurt for a dip, serve with potatoes, egg dishes, green beans, smoked salmon, broiled fish or chicken.


Learning and Eating the Parts of a Plant

Next up, the boys put the STEM into stems and leaves and roots as they learned all the different parts of plants, their functions, and how we can eat some parts of some plants and not of others:

Plant-Parts (1)
From Blendspace (Plants for Kindergarten)

The boys tried to think of leaves, flowers, fruit, stems, roots and seeds they eat and got to see, touch, smell and taste examples of each:

Seeds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruit right from the garden

For more about the different plant parts that we can eat, see a similar lesson in “Head Start Tots Learn About Soil, Worms, Gardening and Food at Lenox Hill House Rooftop Garden.

Erin Hodges shows Boys Club a stem (garlic scape) that we can eat
Boys Club learning the plant parts

We also learned about the effect of the sun, carbon dioxide and water


Erin explaining the cycle of photosynthesis
Examining a nasturtium flower
EVERYBODY loves a squash blossom!



1 large cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 avocado, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup chopped mint leaves
2 pounds red or yellow tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 red or yellow bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Salt and freshly ground white pepper


  1. Put the cucumber and avocado in a blender or food processor, add the vinegar and pulse until finely chopped but not pureed. Transfer to a large bowl or pitcher.
  2. Add the onion, minced garlic, mint, two-thirds of the tomatoes and half the yellow peppers to the blender and puree until smooth. Add this mixture to the cucumber.
  3. Finely chop the remaining tomatoes and yellow bell peppers by hand and stir them into the gazpacho. Whisk in the olive oil and jalapeños and season with salt, and white pepper. Refrigerate the gazpacho until cold, at least 3 hours. Garnish with chopped cucumber and mint.
  4. Make ahead. The gazpacho can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Boys enjoy cool gazpacho in the hot summer garden


More Photos as the Garden Grows

A lovely interlude scroll through our garden…

Tyler has a plum of a tomato!
Mini-melons climbing
Herb spiral coming in full
Our first sunflower
Black Eyed Susans
Welcome to our special garden!
White or Madonna Lily (lilium candidum)
Summer abundance

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