School Garden Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

This lesson plan helps students create a classroom plant nursery and learn the skills to expand into a larger school garden where space and resources allow.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson plan, students will be able to:

  • grow plants from seeds or transplants
  • name the parts of a plant
  • describe a plant's growth cycle from a seed
  • identify a plant's needs and provide basic maintenance and care

Length

  • Introduction and setup take about 2 or 3 hours
  • Maintenance averages about 15 minutes per school day throughout the year

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.4

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.7

Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.4.4.C

Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation and determine or clarify the precise meaning of keywords and phrases.

Vocabulary

  • compost
  • fertilizer
  • flowering
  • flowers
  • fork
  • garden
  • germination
  • gloves
  • grow
  • hoe
  • hose
  • leaves
  • mulch
  • photosynthesis
  • plants
  • rake
  • roots
  • seeds
  • shears
  • shovel
  • soil
  • sprout
  • stem
  • succession planting
  • sunlight
  • till
  • trowel
  • vegetable
  • water/rain
  • weeds
  • wheelbarrow
  • zone

Materials

  • A map of hardiness zones for the area including and surrounding the school
  • A variety of planters and containers (get creative here and ask students to bring in things they find around the house)
  • A tarp or even a small wading pool to hold all the containers and reduce the mess and isolate the project
  • Potting soil for vegetables (if there is an outdoor space for the garden, conduct a soil sample to determine if it needs additives like lime, compost, or fertilizer)
  • A variety of seeds (a salsa/pizza garden may include tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic, basil, cilantro, oregano)
  • Basic gardening tools as determined by the size and scope of your garden
  • Ruler
  • Calendar
  • Garden journal for each student
  • Popsicle sticks and a marker for labeling seedlings

Instructions

NOTE: This lesson plan is intensive and long-term so there is built-in flexibility to accommodate the ongoing maintenance work. It will work for a small classroom container garden in the window, a large corner of the playground, or any size in between.

Preparation

  • Gather your materials and decide how much garden you want to grow.
  • Plan your space. The more people helping, the bigger your garden can be. Because of the extensive cost and time commitment required, you may want to find other resources to support your efforts.
  • If your school has a sunny space outdoors, ask the administration to support a school garden for everyone's benefit and with their assistance.
  • If a school garden seems like more than you can keep up with, make a smaller garden or share the work with another teacher and their classroom. Coordinate what you are planting so there is variety.
  • Look at gardening clubs to share seeds and expertise. Perhaps invite a guest speaker to share with the class.
  • See if there is a community sustainability program that may offer grants, loaner tools, or other material assistance.
  • Check with the local farmers market for possible resources. You may find someone who will volunteer to till your outdoor garden.

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