Working with Large Student Groups

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Henriksen, Rebekka

Jul 21, 2021, 3:12:18 PM7/21/21
to SGSO Network
Hi everyone,

I work with lots of different size groups in our school gardens. I have one site where the group is always on the large size , around 25-30 students, in a fairly small space, and the energy of the group is rather chaotic and easily distracted. There are usually other adults present, their classroom teachers, but they have a tendency to chat with one another and don't assist (and in fact their chatter in the background with eachother can be really distracting to me and the kids). I am not used to faculty doing this during garden time but it is what it is. 

So, any tips for working with such a group? I try to get them doing, not just listening, although I do have to explain stuff and it is hard to get their attention. Lots of pausing and asking for "eyes on me please" that kind of thing. This is my only group where I have had to remove tools or exploratory materials because they become entirely focused on them and messing around with the stuff rather than listening to what we are about to do with it. I want them to enjoy their time in the garden with me.

Thanks for suggestions!

Rebekka Henriksen
Farm to School Grant Facilitator
Schenectady City School District

Menyuk, Laura N

Jul 22, 2021, 8:28:04 AM7/22/21
to SGSO Network, Henriksen, Rebekka
If it's it too late to set a new tone: get their teachers engaged First . Ways we do this: Welcome the teachers and let them know that their job is in subtle, not optional ways. Start by stating, for example, "when I ask a question you'll raise your hand just like in the classroom and {Ms. XYZ} will call on you to choose students to answer." Give the teacher the materials to hand out. Also, Assign teachers to different tables /areas / groups so they are separated from each other. One way to do this-If there are chairs or stumps, tell the students, 'this one is reserved for an adult', leaving one spot at each station. Then direct teachers to sit there/go there and don't start the lesson until teachers are in place. 'I'm waiting for an adult at this table so we can start...' If someone is using their phone after you've already set a clear participatory tone, you've put yourself in a place where you can just say 'of course I understand you need a minute to use your phone, please just step away from the group as you do so, and just come back when you're done.'

Great Kids Farm of Baltimore City Public Schools

Laura Menyuk

Farm to School Specialist 

Cell: 301-580-5421 

From: <> on behalf of Henriksen, Rebekka <>
Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2021 3:12:14 PM
To: SGSO Network <>
Subject: Working with Large Student Groups
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School Sprouts

Jul 25, 2021, 3:00:58 PM7/25/21
to Menyuk, Laura N, SGSO Network, Henriksen, Rebekka
Great advice, Laura! 
Rebekka, you could also suggest that the teachers split the group and offer 2 shortened garden classes with 12-15 students and only one teacher. That way you can fit the group more easily into the space and the teachers don’t have anyone to chat with. 
Good luck!

Likely sent from a farm or garden. May contain soil, compost or seeds. 

On Jul 22, 2021, at 8:28 AM, Menyuk, Laura N <> wrote:

Linda S. Law-Saunders

Jul 29, 2021, 3:31:14 PM7/29/21
to Henriksen, Rebekka, SGSO Network


I use a Garden Yoga activity for those who are not directly participating at the time.

I have the teachers/aides/volunteers lead the children in activity.

I found the poster at




Linda S. Law
Family & Consumer Sciences and Ag & Food Systems Educator

Cornell Cooperative Extension | Washington County

415 Lower Main St. Hudson Falls, NY 12839| | Facebook | | 518-746-2560


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From: <> On Behalf Of Henriksen, Rebekka
Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2021 3:12 PM
To: SGSO Network <>
Subject: Working with Large Student Groups


Hi everyone,


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