Summer Veggies All Year

By Sandra Dianna, September 12, 2010

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Mathematics
  • Science

Lesson Time

270 minutes for classroom activities


Can summer vegetables be grown year round?

Students will design growing systems to provide warmth and nutrients to summer vegetables in order for them to grow during the fall, winter and spring months.

Summer vegetables have a wide variety and are enjoyed best by many, but in Virginia (as well as other areas) producing them outside of the summer months is not always possible.  This lesson will encourage students to experiment with different concepts of growing in order to grow summer producing plants and have them produce out of season.

Students will use National Science Standards of Unifying Concepts and Processes, Science as Inquiry and Life Science.  Based on Virginia State Standards students in the second grade will master the understanding of the life cycle of the seed.  This standard is usually presented in the spring months and students normally do not see the end result of a seed producing a vegetable.  By having students investigate and design other ways to force summer vegetables to grow, if any of their growing systems work, students will possibly be able to see the end products grown from their seeds.

Through the process of making something – a model, an object, or a poster – and then creating an actual growing system, the students will investigate a creative solution for the hypothesis.

The objective of this design process is to encourage students to explore a variety of models and solutions in order to investigate a variety of growing systems for growing summer vegetables in off-season time frames.  The investigation will allow the students to see the significance of how and why the design process is used in making an idea become an actual situation.  Further, students will develop an understanding that not all designs are best, some will work and some will not.  If any one of the students' growing systems work, students will have an opportunity to see the seed cycle move through the production cycle.  The end result will enable students to develop a greater understanding of the design process and how it can relate to the “scientific inquiry method."

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts Strand Reading for Informational Text Grade 2 RI.2.1. Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text. RI.2.3. Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text. RI.2.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area. RI.2.6. Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe. RI.2.7. Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text. Grade 3 RI. 3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to a text as a basis for answers. RI 3.3 Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts or steps in a technical procedure in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, cause/effect. Strand Speaking and Listening Grade 2 SL.2.1. Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups. SL.2.3. Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to clarify comprehension, gather additional information, or deepen understanding of a topic or issue. Grade 3 SL3.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups and teacher-led)with diverse partners on grade 3 level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and building their own effectively.  SL3.1a Come to discussions prepared having read or studied required material, explicitly draw upon that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.  SL3.3 Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker offering appropriate elaboration and detail.  Common Core Mathematics K-2 Cluster Represent and interpret data. Grade 2 2.MD.9. Generate measurement data by measuring lengths of several objects to the nearest whole unit, or by making repeated measurements of the same object. Show the measurements by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in whole-number units. 2.MD.10. Draw a picture graph and a bar graph (with single-unit scale) to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put-together, take-apart, and compare problems using information presented in a bar graph. Grade 3 CCSSMath.Content.3.MD.B3 Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Salve "How Many More?" and "How Many Less?" problems using information in bar graphs. For example how to draw a bar graph in which each square of the bar graph represents 5 pets.  List of Benchmarks for Science Standard 6. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment. Level I (Grade K-2) 1. Knows that plants and animals need certain resources for energy and growth (e.g., food, water, light, air) Standard 12. Understands the nature of scientific inquiry Level I (Grade K-2) 1. Knows that learning can come from careful observations and simple experiments 2. Knows that tools (e.g., thermometers, magnifiers, rulers, balances) can be used to gather information and extend the senses Grade 3 1. Knows that science investigations involve asking and answering a question and comparing the answer to what scientists already know about the world. 2. Plans and conducts simple investigations (e.g., formulates a testable question, plans a fair test, makes systematic observations, develops logical conclusions) 3. Knows that scientists’ explanations about what happens in the world come partly from what they observe (evidence), and partly from how they interpret (inference) their observations Mathematics Standard 1. Uses a variety of strategies in the problem-solving process Level I (Grade K-2) 1. Draws pictures to represent problems 2. Uses discussions with teachers and other students to understand problems 4. Makes organized lists or tables of information necessary for solving a problem 5. Uses whole number models (e.g., pattern blocks, tiles, or other manipulative materials) to represent problems Standard 6. Understands and applies basic and advanced concepts of statistics and data analysis Level I (Grade K-2) 1. Collects and represents information about objects or events in simple graphs 2. Understands that one can find out about a group of things by studying just a few of them



Students will be able to:

  • understand the life cycle of a seed, the procedures of the Scientific Method, and to recognize a variety of growing systems
  • use National Science Standards of Unifying Concepts and Processes, Science as Inquiry, and Life Science
  • use the Mathematics strand of Statistics and Data Analysis in this learning sequence


Computers with Internet access (Note: Teacher should pre-bookmark safe sites that apply to lesson.)

Books relating to vegetables and the growing process

(Note: Student Web sites and book resources will vary depending on grade level.)


  • handouts (directions, explanation of the scientific method, lesson outline to include the design process as it relates to the scientific method, and tables and bar graphs for collecting data)
  • poster board
  • construction paper
  • markers
  • glue/glue sticks
  • scissors
  • wooden craft sticks
  • newspaper

(Note: Students will develop a list of other needs and items; this list should include items that can be recycled to make growing systems. For example: soil; old pots, plastic tubs and plastic bottles that can be used as planting containers, watering cans and seeds.)


  • design: to plan and make something in a skillful or artistic way, to intend something for a particular purpose
  • evaluate: to consider or examine something in order to judge its value, quality, importance, extent, or condition
  • model: a copy of an object, especially one made on a smaller scale than the original; something used as the basis for a related idea, process, or system
  • outcome: the way that something turns out in the end
  • process: a series of actions directed toward a particular aim; a series of natural occurrences that produce change or development
  • solution: a method of successfully dealing with a problem or difficulty; to find the answer to a question


(Note: Teacher will begin this unit by incorporating the Scientific Method and how it relates to the Design Process.  Use the attached handout.)

Step 1: Students Ask a Question (Note: This is Step 1 in the Scientific Method and Step 1 in the Design Process {Review the Challenge}.  Just as asking the hypothetical question in the Scientific Method helps define the problem, in the Design Process it is important to identify if something works well or if improvements would make it better.  The challenge or question in this lesson is wanting to know if it is possible for summer vegetables to grow out of season.)

1. Give the students the following prompts as step one of the challenge:

  • Can summer vegetables be grown out of season?
  • Why do summer vegetables not grow well during the winter months? (This question will help students identify why summer vegetables are not readily grown out of season.)
  • What are the best growing conditions for summer vegetables?  (As above, this question will help students identify why summer vegetables are not readily grown out of season.)
  • Make lists of summer vegetables.

2. Have students identify if there is a demand or need for these types of vegetables.

Step 2: Students do Background Research (Note: Step 2 of the Design Process is to gather and analyze information. In the Design Process, data is critical to determine if there is a need for the desired product.)

1. Students will use the Internet and the library to research the best growing conditions needed for the summer vegetables.

2. Students will investigate a variety of growing systems, how they work, and what types of materials can achieve or mimic summer growing conditions.  Students should research:

  • the effects of composting
  • hydroponics – the use of water as a growing system
  • greenhouses

(Note: The questions here include: Will any of these methods of growing force summer vegetables to grow off season?  Can these methods be enhanced and used in the average home situation?  Are they practical to use or will the overall growing systems' cost be greater than if the vegetables were purchased from a local market?  The data can help to determine the cost effectiveness of the design.)

Steps 3 & 4:  Students Construct a Hypothesis and Build a Model (Note: Part of the Design Process is determining the performance criteria for successful solutions, generating alternative solutions, and building prototypes.)

1. As a group, students will compare the different growing systems they researched.

2. The students will make drawings to represent the growing system they intend to build as their design project.

3. The students will build models prior to building the actual item used for the project.  This will enable students to enhance, adjust, or rethink as their design before moving on to the final product.

Step 5: Students Test With an Experiment (Note: This part of the Design Process includes evaluating the choices that have been implemented.  Students will use and test the different models, and will compare the costs of all designs, as well as maintain a record of product yielded.  The students will then compare which method would better benefit the consumer.)

1. Using materials determined from building the model, students will develop a growing system to use for planting and maintaining seedlings and adult vegetable plants. They will care for the plants by watering them and maintaining proper lighting and air quality needed for growth.  In order for the experiment to be fair all students will grow the same vegetables, plant on the same day, and attend to the care of the growing system at the same time each day.  Students will maintain daily records of all data collected during their experiment.

Step 6: Students Analyze Data (Note: The Design Process also evaluates outcomes. This portion of the process will provide a visual and mathematical comparison to determine the effectiveness of each individual design. It will also provide data to determine if additional improvements could be made or if the design could be more efficient.)

1. Provide graph paper for students to use to record collected data. Groups will develop graphs in order to compare their data with the other groups' data.

Step 7: Students Communicate Results

1. Students will present their findings to their classmates with a visual presentation and verbalize their conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the growing system.


An assessment should be made at each step of the lesson in order to ensure the students have completed each section.  This will enable the teacher to establish whether each student went through the entire design process and to make sure all objectives were met.  In order to differentiate the instruction, students should be grouped heterogeniously.  This will allow groups to have a variety of strengths and will foster peer mentoring.  A simplified version could also be offered for students who have difficulty reading.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Community Involvement: Teacher will enlist the support of community helpers to provide advanced knowledge in the area of the growing systems by inviting local professional or advanced hobbyist gardeners to come to the classroom, and will ask local nurseries and hardware stores to make donations to assist in the construction of the growing systems.

  1. I like this lesson! I’m currently doing gardening with my students and aside from freezing and canning, I had not thought of growing off season. Thank you!

  2. Excellent design project! I teach high school and am wanting to do a gardening project as well. I know that growing plants out of season, and out of a natural habitat, is going to be one of our challenges. Thank you for this project, I now have a frame for addressing this part of our problem. Also, your lesson plan is very well organized and well explained.

  3. As a summer gardener and lover of plants, I find this design project very intrigueing. This seems like a project I would try for myself. I would also like to encourage our Generation-On Gardening team at school to try this. As summer comes to a close we all become sad to see our gardens die and stop producing. We can extend our teaching and learning experiences through the seasons using this design project.