all ages

Garden Sleuths

Dig Deeper to Discover Garden Visitors

Gardens are full of interesting creatures that squirm, crawl, and fly. Your students can become garden detectives and try to discover who some of these visitors are and what they're up to. Challenge your kids to use their eagle eyes (and a hand lens, if possible) to look for signs of insect and other animal life. Don't forget to look in the soil, under leaves, on flowers, and in the air. After all, many creatures carry on their lives out of sight. What is the largest animal they find? The smallest? The most interesting? Encourage them to write about and draw pictures of their findings.

Growing an Edible-Flower Planter

There's something about the idea of eating flowers that captures the curiosity of children, and they can easily grow their own little garden of edible flowers in a large planter. They might even be tempted to eat salads topped with their own fresh-picked blossoms.

You'll need:

Herbs Across the Curriculum

With their rich historical backstories and uses, herbs can inspire cross-disciplinary activities for school gardeners. Some examples follow:

Making a Butterfly Observation Chamber

To make your own hatching chamber for butterflies, you'll need:

  • 2-liter plastic soda bottle
  • caterpillar, along with leaf on which it was found
  • leaves of host plant

1. Find a caterpillar on a plant so you'll know what food it prefers. Don't pull the caterpillar off the leaf, just remove the leaf from the plant. Collect several more leaves and twigs from the host plant.

Turning Kids On to Herbs

Kids naturally love fragrant plants, so exploring herbs is great fun for even preschoolers. These aromatic plants played even more vital roles in earlier times than they do today, and kids will get a kick out of learning about their usefulness. In many cultures, herbs and spices were considered more valuable than gold, and people took risky journeys to find and trade them.

Growing Classroom Herbs

Many herb plants can be easily grown in a classroom light garden or windowsill, started from seeds, cuttings, or plants. Local nurseries, friends' gardens, and catalogs are good sources of seeds and plants. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Dyeing Across the Curriculum

Fran Ludwig, Science Consultant from Lexington, MA, reports that the plant dyeing students tried during a study of colonial crafts sparked lots of questions worthy of classroom investigation: What happens if we leave it in the dye bath longer? Will dyes work differently in different types of fabrics? What flowers might make good dyes? Will different parts of the same plant produce different colors? Can we dye other materials like wood, shells, etc.?

Digging Deeper with Seeds

Discover How They Get Around

Because plants are anchored to the earth, they have to be clever about relocating their offspring (seeds) so they won't have to compete for resources with their parents. Some are carried on the wind or water. Others hitch a ride on passing animals or are naturally catapulted great distances. Those that are concealed in tempting fruits are eaten by animals and deposited elsewhere. Invite students to take a fall seed walk in search of clues of traveling seeds.

Flower/Pollinator Investigations

As students actively explore blooms indoors and out, consider how to help them grasp the concept that every aspect of flowers is vital to their mission: to spread pollen and produce seeds. Students' observations will lead to fertile questions, some of which they can answer through investigations. When appropriate, consider infusing the following types of questions to prompt further thinking about flower/pollinator alliances.


Rottin' Lessons

A healthy garden soil results from the contribution of numerous organisms."Nature has no interest in the preservation of her dead; her purpose is to start their elements upon the eternal road to life once more." --Loren Eisley

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Copyright © 1999-2012 National Gardening Association     | &      |     Created on 03/15/99, 

Last updated on 04/24/2014
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