How Does Your Garden Grow

By cheri Bedard, August 28, 2008

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • School Design

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Fourteen 1-3 hour class periods; ongoing


This unit will integrate the four core subject areas of math, science, social studies and language arts. Students will use skills in these areas to design, construct, and maintain a school garden. Students will be able to write letters to businesses in the community to ask for supplies and materials. Through the activities the students will use math skills to construct the garden. Students will be able to observe and record the life cycle of plants. This unit will be ongoing throughout the year as students maintain and observe the garden.

National Standards

Mathematics Standard 1. Uses a variety of strategies in the problem-solving process 1. Uses a variety of strategies to understand problem situations (e.g., discussing with peers, stating problems in own words, modeling problem with diagrams or physical objects, identifying a pattern) 3. Understands that some ways of representing a problem are more helpful than others 4. Uses trial and error and the process of elimination to solve problems 5. Knows the difference between pertinent and irrelevant information when solving problems 7. Uses explanations of the methods and reasoning behind the problem solution to determine reasonableness of and to verify results with respect to the original problem 8. Understands basic valid and invalid arguments (e.g., counter examples, irrelevant approaches) Standard 4. Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of measurement 1. Understands the basic measures perimeter, area, volume, capacity, mass, angle, and circumference 2. Selects and uses appropriate tools for given measurement situations (e.g., rulers for length, measuring cups for capacity, protractors for angle) 3. Knows approximate size of basic standard units (e.g., centimeters, feet, grams) and relationships between them (e.g., between inches and feet) 4. Understands relationships between measures (e.g., between length, perimeter, and area) 5. Understands that measurement is not exact (i.e., measurements may give slightly different numbers when measured multiple times) 6. Uses specific strategies to estimate quantities and measurements (e.g., estimating the whole by estimating the parts) 7. Selects and uses appropriate units of measurement, according to type and size of unit Standard 5. Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of geometry 1. Knows basic geometric language for describing and naming shapes (e.g., trapezoid, parallelogram, cube, sphere) 2. Understands basic properties of figures (e.g., two- or three-dimensionality, symmetry, number of faces, type of angle) 3. Predicts and verifies the effects of combining, subdividing, and changing basic shapes 6. Understands characteristics of lines (e.g., parallel, perpendicular, intersecting) and angles (e.g., right, acute) 7. Understands how scale in maps and drawings shows relative size and distance Science Standard 5. Understands the structure and function of cells and organisms 1. Knows that plants and animals progress through life cycles of birth, growth and development, reproduction, and death; the details of these life cycles are different for different organisms 2. Knows that living organisms have distinct structures and body systems that serve specific functions in growth, survival, and reproduction (e.g., various body structures for walking, flying, or swimming) 3. Knows that the behavior of individual organisms is influenced by internal cues (e.g., hunger) and external cues (e.g., changes in the environment), and that humans and other organisms have senses that help them to detect these cues Standard 6.Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment 1. Understands that living things have similar needs (e.g., water, food) 1. Knows that plants and animals need certain resources for energy and growth (e.g., food, water, light, air) 2. Knows that living things are found almost everywhere in the world and that distinct environments support the life of different types of plants and animals 1. Knows the organization of simple food chains and food webs (e.g., green plants make their own food with sunlight, water, and air; some animals eat the plants; some animals eat the animals that eat the plants) 2. Knows that the transfer of energy (e.g., through the consumption of food) is essential to all living organisms 3. Knows that an organism’s patterns of behavior are related to the nature of that organism’s environment (e.g., kinds and numbers of other organisms present, availability of food and resources, physical characteristics of the environment) 4. Knows that changes in the environment can have different effects on different organisms (e.g., some organisms move in, others move out; some organisms survive and reproduce, others die) 5. Knows that all organisms (including humans) cause changes in their environments, and these changes can be beneficial or detrimental Standard 7.Understands biological evolution and the diversity of life 1. Knows simple ways that living things can be grouped (e.g., appearance, behavior, plant, animal) 2. Knows that there are similarities and differences in the appearance and behavior of plants and animals 1. Knows that fossils can be compared to one another and to living organisms to observe their similarities and differences 2. Knows different ways in which living things can be grouped (e.g., plants/animals, bones/no bones, insects/spiders, live on land/live in water) and purposes of different groupings Language Arts Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 1. Prewriting: Uses prewriting strategies to plan written work (e.g., uses graphic organizers, story maps, and webs; groups related ideas; takes notes; brainstorms ideas; organizes information according to type and purpose of writing) 2. Drafting and Revising: Uses strategies to draft and revise written work (e.g., elaborates on a central idea; writes with attention to audience, word choice, sentence variation; uses paragraphs to develop separate ideas; produces multiple drafts) 3. Editing and Publishing: Uses strategies to edit and publish written work (e.g., edits for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling at a developmentally appropriate level; uses reference materials; considers page format [paragraphs, margins, indentations, titles]; selects presentation format according to purpose; incorporates photos, illustrations, charts, and graphs; uses available technology to compose and publish work) 4. Evaluates own and others’ writing (e.g., determines the best features of a piece of writing, determines how own writing achieves its purposes, asks for feedback, responds to classmates’ writing) 6. Uses strategies (e.g., adapts focus, point of view, organization, form) to write for a variety of purposes (e.g., to inform, entertain, explain, describe, record ideas) 10. Writes expressive compositions (e.g., expresses ideas, reflections, and observations; uses an individual, authentic voice; uses narrative strategies, relevant details, and ideas that enable the reader to imagine the world of the event or experience) 12. Writes personal letters (e.g., includes the date, address, greeting, body, and closing; addresses envelopes; includes signature) Standard 4.  Gathers and uses information for research purposes 1. Uses a variety of strategies to plan research (e.g., identifies possible topic by brainstorming, listing questions, using idea webs; organizes prior knowledge about a topic; develops a course of action; determines how to locate necessary information) 2. Uses encyclopedias to gather information for research topics 3. Uses dictionaries to gather information for research topics 4. Uses electronic media to gather information (e.g., databases, Internet, CD-ROM, television shows, cassette recordings, videos, pull-down menus, word searches) 5. Uses key words, guidewords, alphabetical and numerical order, indexes, cross-references, and letters on volumes to find information for research topics 6. Uses multiple representations of information (e.g., maps, charts, photos, diagrams, tables) to find information for research topics 7. Uses strategies to gather and record information for research topics (e.g., uses notes, maps, c harts, graphs, tables, and other graphic organizers; paraphrases and summarizes information; gathers direct quotes; provides narrative descriptions) 8. Uses strategies to compile information into written reports or summaries (e.g., incorporates notes into a finished product; includes simple facts, details, explanations, and examples; draws conclusions from relationships and patterns that emerge from data from different sources; uses appropriate visual aids and media)


The students will be able to apply math concepts such as perimeter and area in real life situations. The students will be able to use information they have learned about plants to maintain the garden throughout the year without adult direction. The unit will foster civic involvement within the students as they work with community and business members to develop, construct, and maintain their garden.


  • Internet sites
  • gardening books
  • landscaping books
  • math, science, social studies textbooks
  • encyclopedias
  • dictionaries


    • measuring devices
    • graph paper
    • string
    • stakes
    • markers
    • colored pencils
    • drawing paper
    • soil
    • rocks
    • shovels
    • gloves
    • rakes
    • seeds
    • plants
    • hoses
    • measuring devices
    • mulch
    • fertilizer
    • journals
    • markers
    • graph paper
    • colored pencils
    • tag board
    • gardening magazines
    • foam board
    • glue
    Language Arts
  • school letterhead paper
  • business catalogs
  • overhead
  • business letter


  • carbon dioxide – a gas in air that is taken in by plants, exhaled by animals, and given off when fuel is burned
  • chlorophyll – the green coloring matter of plants that traps energy from the sun and is needed by plants for making food
  • dormancy – period of suspended life processes brought on by changes in the environment
  • flowering plants – seed bearing plants with flowers.  A flower is the part of the plant in which seeds form.
  • leaves – the part of the plant that makes most of the food for the plant to survive
  • ovary – the reproductive part of a plant that produces female sex cells
  • ovule – the part of a plant that contains the female germ cell which after fertilization develops into a seed.
  • oxygen – a gas that is given off by plants and used by animals
  • photosynthesis – the process by which green plants manufacture carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water using the energy produced when light is absorbed by chlorophyll
  • pistil – the part of the flower that contains egg cells
  • pollen – powdery substance produced in the stamen.  It contains the male germ cell.
  • pollination – the transfer of pollen grains to the female reproductive cells in a plant
  • reproduce – to make offspring
  • roots – the structure that holds the plant in the ground;  provide the plant with water and with nutrients that have dissolved in the water and soil
  • seed – the part of a plant containing a plant embryo
  • sepal – the outer part of a flower that surrounds and protects the bud before it opens
  • spore – a cell that develops into a new organism
  • stamen – the part of the flower that produces pollen
  • stems – the part of a plant that takes the nutrients and water from the roots to the rest of the plant; they also hold the plant up so that the leaves can get sunlight.
  • conifer – plants that make seeds inside a cone (evergreens)
  • deciduous- a tree or shrub that looses its leaves annually.
  • embryo – a developing organism that results from fertilization
  • vascular plant – plant that has tissues that carry water and nutrients to various plant parts.  All seed making plants are vascular.
  • non-vascular plant – plant that does not have tissues used to carry water and nutrients.  Usually spore producing plants.
  • area - The measure, in square units, of the interior region of a 2-diminsional figure or the surface of a 3-dimensionalfigure.
  • formula -  A general equation or rule.
  • perimeter -  The distance around a figure.
  • polygon -  A closed plane figure formed from line segments that meet only at their end point.
  • side -  A line segment connected to other segments to form a polygon; an edge of a polyhedron.


Day One 1.   Break students into groups of four.  As a class, tour the existing garden.  Ask students to take notes, make sketches, and take photographs of the existing garden. Day Two Science (1 hour) 1.  Principal comes in and discusses what the school wants from the garden based on Standards of Learning.  The principal presents a list of needs that should be met in the student’s redesigns of the garden. Language Arts (1 hour) 1. Students will formulate questions for guest Master Gardener. Day Three Science (1 hour) 1.  A Master Gardener from the community will speak to the students about creating a garden. 2.  Students have opportunity to ask questions of the guest speaker. 3.  Students will look at plant and landscaping books as well as other resource materials to decided on plants that could survive within the climate zone where the school is located. 4.  Develop a list of plants they would like based on the school’s location and the growing season. Math (1.5 hours) 1.  Use measuring devices to determine the perimeter and area of the garden. 2.  Use string and stakes to divide the space into square feet. 3.   Plot the garden dimensions on 1inch graph paper. Day Four Math (1 hour) 1.  Students will work with their original group. 2.  The groups will use the information they gathered and researched in science class to redesign the garden based on the needs of the school and the principal. In doing so, students will have to take into account the needs of the plants such as lighting and growing space to determine where the plants will be placed and how far apart they will need to be. 3.  The groups begin working together using graph paper, sketch paper, and markers to create their garden design.  The design should include not only where the plants are to be placed but also different landscaping ideas such as pathways, rocks, benches, or any other items they think would make the garden a nice place for people to visit. Day Five Science (1.5 hours) 1.  Students will continue in their groups to finish their design for the garden. 2.  Students will prepare their design for a presentation in front of the Principal, Vice Principal, PTA President, and PTA Treasurer.  For the presentation the students are expected to have a scaled map of the garden design on graph paper, examples (pictures, drawings, cut outs) of the plants they want to include, and a model of their garden. Day Six Science (1.5 hours) 1.  The groups will present their ideas to the panel as well as be prepared to answer questions concerning their designs 2.  The panel will decide on the design that will be used for the garden. 3.  An opportunity will be given for all students to make suggestions on how to improve the winning design. Day Seven Language Arts (1.5 hours) 1.  Using the overhead projector, review with the students the format for a business letter. 2. Students will write letters to local businesses such as Home Depot, Lowes, K-Mart, and Wal- Mart requesting garden supplies, plants, seeds, or monetary contributions. 3.  Students will also write letters to the school's PTA requesting gardening tools and monetary contributions Day Eight Language Arts (1 hour) 1.  The students will edit, rewrite, and address the letters. 2.  Mail the letters Day Nine Science (2 hours) 1. Students will work with adults to prepare the garden plots. Day Ten Science (2 hours) 1.  Students will visit a local nursery to meet with a Master Gardener and tour the store. The students will discuss with the Gardener in further detail the specific needs of the plants the students will be purchasing. 2.  Students will purchase the plants and other items needed for the garden design. Day Eleven Science (2 hours) 1.  Students will work with adult volunteers to layout the garden design. 2.  Students will then transplant the vegetation. Day Twelve Science (2-3 hours) 1.  The students will then work with adults to install other landscaping aspects such as borders and walkways. Day Thirteen Science (1 hour) 1.  Principal will bring a copy of needs that must be met and evaluate completed garden. 2.  The students will be posed with new questions such as the following:
  • How will the garden be maintained?
  • What is a plan for usage of the vegetables and flowers harvested?
  • How will you create a schedule for future plantings?
  • What could be future additions to the garden?
  • How can we keep unwanted wildlife from harming the garden?
  • The above questions could also be used for extension activities.



1.  Students will calculate the perimeter and area of the garden, as well as develop a scaled model of the garden on graph paper. Science 1. The students will diagram and compare the life cycles of the different plants in the garden. 2. The students will identify parts of the plants. 3. The students will be able to  explain the functions of each part of the plant. 4. The students will be able to write about the needs of plants. Language Arts 1. Using the states writing rubric, the students will compose, edit, and rewrite a formal business letter.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Social Studies (Economics)

1. The students will design, create, and manage a produce stand to sell their plants, vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Profits can be used to maintain the garden. Art 1. Students can use a variety of material to create artwork to display in the garden. 2. Students can build a small water feature for additional enjoyment of the space. Science 1. Students can create a section of the garden for composting. 2. Students can observe and record the different animals that will inhabit the garden in their journals. 3. Students can create graphs and charts to display the growth of the plants. Math 1. Students could use measuring skills to cook food using items from their garden such as strawberry ice cream and potato latkes. Language Arts 1.  Students can produce a maintenance schedule.

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