School gardens are a wonderful and exciting way to make almost any classroom curriculum come alive and show “real-life” meaning to students as they learn! Students learn ecological principles and they help children make connections to Mother Earth. A garden can teach students responsibility, to respect nature and to learn to how to work together. Gardens have been proven to help students learn better and enhance test scores, and they can be an engaging way to meet Core Curriculum Content Standards.
Schools can create theme gardens with child-related topics. Such as a “storybook garden”. Some ideas may be: Dr. Seuss Garden – include plants with unique names or characteristics that might fit in a Dr. Seuss book. Wizard of Oz Garden – plant a Munchkin Garden with tiny plants or create a path lined with yellow plants to create the Yellow Brick Road. Harry Potter Garden – consider using plants with unusual names or ones that have healing properties. Alice in Wonderland Garden – recreate Alice’s journey with doors, pathways, tea parties, oversized and undersized plants, mushroom stools and wisdom to be learned from a caterpillar. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Garden – include plants the Hungry Caterpillar eats on his way to becoming a butterfly. Fairy Tale Garden – Jack and the Beanstalk with many vines and large blooming flowers.
For younger children an Alphabet Garden can support language development and early literacy as every plant starts with a letter of the alphabet. This can be a little more complicated to find all the corresponding plants and have names that little ones could pronounce. As a class, you could make an alphabet book on your plants and allow the students to illustrate.
To bring in Indian Education, there is a garden called the “The Three Sister’s Garden” You can show students how Native Americans traditionally grew corn, beans and squash together. You could use a venn diagram to compare how Native Americans gardened in the past and how it compares to gardening today.
If a large scale garden is not an option, try a fairy garden. You can provide opportunities for children to create magical worlds that support dramatic play using miniature plants and natural loose parts for building homes for fairies and elves. Include plants with magical names, such as Heuchera ‘Magic Wand’. Children could write make believe stories about the fairy garden and the magic that takes place within it.
In a time when children are spending the majority of their time indoors, we need to help them reconnect with nature and teach them to value our environment. Happy gardening!