Curriculum Integration

How Can a School Garden Program be Integrated into the Curriculum?

School gardens are a great educational resource for students and teachers! From garden planning to planting to maintenance to harvest, the school garden is ripe with opportunities for teaching students about their world and offering real-life examples for concepts taught in the classroom. While science (earth, life, and physical science) and outdoor/environmental education may seem like the most obvious subjects when thinking about integrating the school garden into classroom curriculum, the garden can also serve as a tool for teaching lessons in mathematics, engineering, technology, history/social studies, English and language arts, reading, visual and performing arts, health, and physical education as well!

Below are some ideas on how teachers might use a school garden for learning and demonstrating concepts:

  • Outdoor/Environmental Education
    • Understanding the importance of conservation principles
    • Researching pesticides and recognizing their effect on the environment
    • Composting to reduce food waste
    • Collecting rainwater to conserve water usage
    • Understanding air quality and how it affects health
    • Learning about climate change and how it affects plants and animals
  • Health and Physical Education
    • Understanding and adopting healthy eating habits through nutrition education and taste tests in the school garden
    • Learning about food and tool safety in the garden
    • Spending time outdoors
    • Being physically active through walking, lifting, carrying, digging, planting, and raking
    • Developing dexterity and balance through work in the garden
  • Earth Science
    • Sorting rocks and soil
    • Understanding the motions/patterns of celestial bodies by researching seasons
    • Tracking weather patterns
    • Testing soil temperature
    • Understanding water pollution and the importance of minimizing pesticide use
    • Understanding the benefits of eating seasonal foods
  • Life Science
    • Considering living and non-living things
    • Researching ecosystems and biodiversity
    • Studying the biological evolution of plants such as teosinte (corn’s ancestor)
    • Researching plants and animals in the garden
    • Learning about pollinators and other beneficial insects as well as pests and invasive species
    • Classifying plants and insects
    • Understanding heredity, genes, and successive generations by learning about the parts of a plant, plant reproduction, and sexual propagation
    • Understanding how natural selection works
    • Looking at the structure and function of cells
    • Understanding the process of photosynthesis
    • Saving seeds to plant next year
    • Understanding what plants need to survive
    • Learning about garden food chains
  • Physical Science
    • Using the five senses to explore physical attributes in the garden
    • Understanding the composition of materials through composting, recycling, decomposition, and decomposers
    • Understanding atomic theory/periodicity by considering nitrogen management in the garden, plant nutrients, and the importance of collecting soil samples
    • Understanding the nature of matter by looking at physical and chemical changes in the garden
  • Mathematics
    • Utilizing addition and subtraction through garden-related word problems
    • Practicing counting skills by investigating insects or sorting weeds
    • Understanding measurement and data analysis by measuring the growth of plants or determining whether a pumpkin’s size correlates with the number of seeds inside
    • Exploring shapes through the many different fruits and vegetables within the garden, such as by designing a quilt block salad garden
    • Sorting, comparing, and ordering by designing and graphing out a garden plot
    • Conducting calculations through ordering garden supplies and tracking profit from a student-run farmers’ market
    • Understanding geometry by measuring and mapping the school garden
  • Engineering
    • Utilizing design principles when laying out a school garden
    • Determining the placement of a school garden while considering factors such as the appropriate amount of sunlight and proper drainage
    • Developing a hydroponics system to bring the school garden indoors
    • Building a 3D model of the school garden
    • Designing and building a terrarium
  • Technology
    • Utilizing weather and soil tools in the garden
    • Using apps—or developing apps—to track garden statistics such as plant growth, soil temperature, rainfall, and frequency of watering
    • Discussing technology in small-scale gardens versus large-scale farming
    • Designing a virtual garden through a program like Google Sketchup
    • Creating a stop-motion video recording of plant growth by taking daily pictures of a growing plant
  • Social Studies
    • Understanding civics and philanthropy through community engagement in the garden, donating produce to those in need, and raising funds to develop or expand the school garden
    • Understanding economics by learning about poverty, hunger, and food insecurity and how local foods impact the local and state economy
    • Learning about geography by understanding environmental stewardship, where food is grown in the U.S., the connection of students to the global community, and the issue of global hunger
    • Learning about history by researching how interest in gardening has changed through the years
  • English and Language Arts
    • Reading garden-related books to practice literary skills
    • Practicing informational reading by researching seasons and the weather
    • Practicing writing by recording observations in the garden, journaling, or writing a garden-related fictional story
    • Practicing speaking and listening skills through garden-related presentations by fellow students, teachers, farmers, or extension educators
  • Visual and Performing Arts
    • Performing skits in the garden
    • Singing songs related to fruits and vegetables
    • Creating prints using cut vegetables
    • Creating vegetable dyes for art projects
    • Painting or sketching scenes from the garden
    • Using findings from the garden to create a natural collage

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