Elementary school garden projects are an integrative way to create classroom lessons within the school's curriculum. According to the Garden of Wonders website, students in third through fifth grade who participated in school garden projects scored significantly higher on science achievement tests compared with students who did not participate. Garden projects provide a hands-on way for children to learn about the natural world.
Integrating the Curriculum
School garden projects can be integrated into the school curriculum in the area of math and spatial skills by having students regularly take measurements, record plant growth and then make line or bar graphs. Additionally, students can draw to scale a map of a planned or existing garden. For writing, vocabulary and spelling, students can learn words related to gardening, create a garden newsletter and keep a journal of their observations. To integrate science, garden projects can include identifying beneficial and harmful insects, dissecting a plant and identifying parts and learning the difference between what is edible or considered a weed. For art class, students can design a garden layout, create identifying signs and create a photo exhibit.
For an elementary school project, concentrate on a particular type of garden that may be easiest for beginners. An herb garden does not require much space and is easy to create as long as there is sun. Students will learn which herbs are commonly used as seasonings and teas and which are used for medicinal purposes. Herbs for eating include basil, dill, chives and parsley. Medicinal herbs include lavender, catmint, sorrel and lemon balm. A social studies lesson for an herb garden can cover the origins and uses of herbs.
A lasagna garden is just what the name suggests: a garden of raised beds built like the layers in a tray of lasagna. To grow plants, students follow a layering recipe that includes several types of organic materials, such as soil and grass clippings. This type of gardening project requires a lot of math. The garden area is rectangular, so students must decide how many beds to grow and create a coordinate grid using strings and sticks. Precise measurements are needed to make sure the strings are perpendicular and parallel. The raised lasagna beds require that students work in three dimensions, meaning they must account for depth, width, height and volume.
A butterfly garden will teach students why host plants are necessary for the caterpillar stage and nectar plants are necessary for the butterfly stage. Students will have the opportunity to study the life cycle of the butterfly and learn which plants to grow to attract different types of butterflies. To attract the monarch butterfly, for example, milkweed is planted as the caterpillar host plant and dogbane and zinnia are planted as butterfly nectar.
Heirloom seeds come with a story and can be used with social studies lessons. Planting the green bean can coordinate with fourth-graders and a study lesson on the Cherokee Trail of Tears. This green bean was carried by the Cherokee people during their forced march to Oklahoma in 1838. The pole beans form long vines that climb and are botanical ancestors to beans planted today.
- monarch butterfly image by Krista Richard from Fotolia.com