How Does Your Garden Grow?

By Elijah Sproles, August 24, 2008

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • School Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science

Lesson Time

Four seventy minute classes


Students will create a new design for our school garden.  Students will decide what plants will grow best in our climate, how much sunlight our garden receives and how that affects their plant choice. The class will be broken down into student teams of four and as a group they must decide on a cohesive design.  Design teams must measure the existing space, determine the planting zone of our city and draw a scale replica of the new garden space.  By the end of the lesson, students should research other garden designs (especially other school gardens), measure the old space, decide which plants work best in the space, and make a drawing of the proposed garden space.

National Standards

 Art Connections

Standard 1.  Understands connections among the various art forms and the other disciplines.

Visual Arts

Standard 1.  Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts.
Standard 2.  Knows how to use structures (e.g., sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art
1.  Knows the differences among visual characteristics (e.g., color, texture) and purposes of art (e.g., to convey ideas)


Standard 4.  Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of measurement.

Life Science

Standard 6.  Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment
Standard 1.  Understands atmospheric processes and the water cycle.
2.  Knows the processes involved in the water cycle (e.g., evaporation, condensation, precipitation, surface run-off, percolation) and their effects on climatic patterns.


  • Students will be able to measure and map the old garden space.
  • Students will be able to research other garden designs and decide what can really work in the space.
  • Students will be able to work as a team to arrive at a unified design.
  • Students will be able to draw and present an original garden design.




  • "Home Landscaping Southeast Region", Roger Holmes and Rita Buchanan


  • graph paper
  • drawing materials
  • digital camera
  • measuring tools
  • planting zone map
  • seed catalogs and plant catalogs


  • climate: the average weather conditions in an area determined over a period of years
  • hardiness zone: a plant can be expected to grow in the zone's temperature extremes, as determined by the lowest annual temperature




Class One: Identifying the Problem/Opportunity

1. Students take a tour of the outdoor space they will design while the teacher begins to discuss the assignment.  Students should bring their sketchbooks and do rough sketches of the area. 
2. Students move to the classroom where the teacher will show examples of school gardens similar to the size of the garden the students will design.  At this time students may interview each other to get an diea of any needs the garden design may solve.
3. Students should discuss climate, planting zones, watering needs, foot traffic near the garden space, and other design considerations specific to their garden space.
4. The teacher should break the group into teams of four and let students meet to discuss initial ideas for the space.
5. In preparation for Class Two, the teacher should discuss measuring techniques and the process of creating scale drawings on graph paper.
6. By the end of Class One, student groups should have identified the design opportunity and through sketches, journaling, and interviews, state how their designs would improve the school’s garden.

Class Two Gather/Analyze Information:

1. Have the students break into their original teams.  Begin the class by looking at pictures of garden designs to inspire the students.  Remind the students of the assignment and the things they may want to consider in their designs:

a.     How is the garden space used during different times of day (when school begins, during recess, etc.)?
b.     Given our budget, what are our available resources? 
c.     Keep in mind how different people (students, teachers, visitors to the school) use the existing space.

2. The teams should now go to the design site, make observations and gather their data.  They should take measurements, take pictures (if a camera is available), and take notes on how people use the space.
3. The teams return to the classroom and begin to lay out their garden designs on graph paper.  They may also begin to think about which plants are appropriate given the hardiness zone of your city.  This will help determine what plants they can use.
Note: Students should have a rough drawing of the space on graph paper by the end of this class.

Class Three: Frame the Problem/General Possible Solutions/Prototype

1. Begin this class by reminding the teams that they must work together to come up with a unified design.  The students can do research on the Internet or look at gardening books and magazines to help  them plan their design.
2. Teams should brainstorm and do as many drawings on blank paper as they need to.  Students may need to make another site visit before finalizing their design.
3. By the end of class, student teams should have scale drawings of their designs laid out on graph paper, as well as elevation drawings on blank paper.  They should have decided on plants or at least types and colors of plants and indicate that on their drawings.
4. The teams should also discuss how to present their design ideas to the class.

Class Four: Evaluate/Implement

1. During this class the teams will present their designs and ideas to the whole class.
2. Each team will have five minutes to present their ideas.  They may not need that much time depending on the age group, but with the set up and take down of materials the extra time will be good to have.
3. Once the teams have presented, there will be a question and answer period.
4. Once finished, the students’ designs can be displayed in an area where the rest of the school can view them.


Since there are several parts to this assignment, it may be easier to use a rubric that you can update as the students finish each part of the design.  You can also check their understanding by posing certain questions during the presentations and during individual meetings with the teams.  Make sure to involve all the members of the team when asking questions.  During the presentations make sure to ask which student did which part of the design.  That way you can direct your questions more easily.

Enrichment Extension Activities

  • If you have the resources to plant the garden, the students can measure the progress of the plants and create a bar graph to represent the growth.
  • The students can create a garden journal with photographs and weekly entries on the progress of the garden.
  • The students can invite community members to help with garden upkeep.
  • The students can post pictures and register the garden on various websites (some of the ones listed in my reference section allow you to do this).

Teacher Reflection

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