There are endless ways to connect your garden to the students and the curriculum; here are a few suggestions. Many other ideas will emerge when you involve others at your school in an inclusive design process.

Think about each question below and how your curriculum and school events can be enhanced by the design and plants in the garden. You can borrow ideas from this list to write your proposal, or alter them to customize your program.

Where are plants specifically mentioned in the curriculum standards and how could a garden meet those standards?
  • Illinois Science Learning Standards, Middle Elementary, 12.A.2a: ”Describe simple life cycles of plants and animals and the similarities and differences in their offspring.” Students begin growing different varieties of annual flowers from seeds indoors in late winter and transplant them into a color garden on school grounds in spring to learn the life cycle of a plant. They chart plant growth and variability, addressing the standard above as well as integrating measuring and charting skills together in an applied, real-world setting.
  • District of Columbia Life Science Standard, Essential Knowledge and Skills, Grade 5: “The student examines environments to [understand why] some kinds of plants and animals survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.” A “science garden” provides a spot for upper elementary grades to test different soil conditions on spring or fall lettuce crops.
  • Illinois English Language Arts Learning Standard, Early Elementary, 1.A.1a: “Apply word analysis skills (e.g., phonics, word patterns) to recognize new words.” Students plant an alphabet garden that includes one plant whose name begins with each letter of the alphabet. They make and decorate alphabet letters to put in the garden. Read the Plant Alphabet.

How might teachers use plants in their teaching?
  • The 1st grade class reads and acts out the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk” so the school garden includes a castle-shaped trellis for scarlet runner beans to climb over. (Students can go inside this enchanted castle!) In one area, students try to see how high their vines will climb, practicing measuring and observation skills in an applied and practical context.
  • The 2nd graders have a favorite story about a dragon, so they surround the bean castle with plants whose names remind them of dragons and medieval times, such as smoke bush, fireweed, and snapdragons.
  • The 8th graders study pond life, including an examination of elodea, algae, and other water plants, so the garden includes a small pond in a courtyard with protected access from which samples can be collected and viewed under a microscope.
  • A butterfly garden with nectar and host plants can be planted to attract spring and fall migrating butterflies—a great living observatory for classes studying insects, life cycles, or the stages of metamorphosis.

What school activities (assemblies, special events, extracurricular, or other) might be held in a garden?

  • The garden includes an area that serves for small performances such as musical ensembles, poetry readings, or outdoor theater.
  • Individual classes do creative writing or drawing in the garden during the day.
  • Community leaders use the garden as a site to announce awards or celebrate events in the school or community.
  • A section of the school garden could be used to raise seedlings for a community beautification project.
  • A class could grow and harvest herbs or vegetables to use for a class celebration—a great (and tasty) way for students to connect plants to their food.

How could a garden unite students of different cultures at your school?

  • Children talk to their families, research plants from their countries of their ethnic origin, and grow them in an international garden to celebrate their diversity.
  • A pizza garden, salsa garden, or Three Sisters garden produces the ingredients for a food from a particular ethnic group represented in the community. This garden is also grown using gardening methods used by that culture. Students make and taste different recipes for pizza, salsa, or squash to make it more meaningful.
  • Part of the garden is planted in the distinctive style of a culture, like a Japanese garden, an English walled garden, Native American food garden, or an African village garden, in order to highlight that culture and gain understanding of the people.
  • Create a classroom cookbook - have students bring in family recipes representative of their heritage. Combine all recipes into a booklet and have students share with their parents.
Read more about Children's Garden Themes.

How might the garden tie into community-based efforts or entrepreneurship?

  • The school grows fresh vegetables for a homeless shelter as part of a mission to help the community.
  • Students grow, harvest, and dry flowers to make potpourri and harvest seeds from selected flowers, which they sell at holiday time.
  • The school has ties to George Washington Carver, so the 5th grade class conducts experiments with peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans. They grow their own crops on site and host a community day where they sell their crops.

Is there anything you want to highlight about the history of your school?

  • The school grounds were once forest that was cut down, so the garden includes a tree that is planted during a community ceremony for the city’s anniversary.
  • The school or town was part of the Underground Railroad before the American Civil War and so part of the garden is dedicated to crops grown by African slaves.
  • The school won a coveted award for sports or academics and proudly displays the honor with a commemorative plaque or sculpture in a prominent place in the garden.
  • The school creates a memorial plaque for the garden, or installs a tree or bench in remembrance of a student or staff who has passed away.