The Fall Garden

By Julie Kollenborn, September 1, 2009

Grade Level

  • PreK-1


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

270 minutes for classroom activities


I was presented with the challenge of planting a garden in our preschool yard. Rather than planting the garden myself (with my co-teacher), I decided to involve the children in the process.

As I investigated the challenge further, I decided to choose the plants that we will use in the garden rather than letting the children choose the plants (which was my original thought). This decision was made due to research on growing conditions in the area as well as availability of plant colors (when we will be planting). My research also led me to incorporate plants and colors associated with the fall season, which is quickly approaching (and most likely when I will implement this lesson).

I reframed the challenge I was presented with into “creating a lesson plan for the children that involved planting a fall garden with a Math and Art component.”

The design process will aid in the implementation of this lesson because I have used the steps in the process as a guide for the steps in my procedure. I will attempt to teach the children the steps as we follow them.

I used the notes on the design process, based on “Notes on Design Based Learning” by Meredith Davis and “Why Design?” by Anna Slafer and Kevin Cahill, as a guide as I planned the lesson.

My hope is that if children are involved in the process of making their play space beautiful, they will enjoy it fully as well as have an interest in caring for it!

National Standards


Standard 2. Level Pre-K. Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of numbers

3. Counts objects

4 Understands one-to-one correspondence

Visual Arts

Standard 1. Level Pre-K. Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts

3. Uses a variety of basic art materials (e.g., paints, crayons, clay, pencils) to create works of art and express ideas and feelings

4. Knows the names of a basic of colors

Standard 5. Level Pre-K. Understands the characteristics and merits of one's own artwork and the artwork of others

1. Discusses and evaluates the intentions and meanings of his or her own artwork and the work of others


After this lesson students will be able to:

  • plan and plant a class fall garden
  • identify and name the colors: yellow, green, red, brown, and orange
  • count up to six objects using one-to-one correspondence
  • sort objects based on color
  • represent their ideas through the use of clay, paper, pencils, and other art materials made available
  • begin the process of caring for a garden

Resources -- pictures of zinnias -- information on how to grow zinnias

Gill, Dan. Month-by-Month Gardening in Louisiana. Nashville, Tennessee: Cool Springs Press, a Division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1999.

Kalman, Bobbie. How a Plant Grows. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 1997.

“Notes on Design Based Learning” by Meredith Davis -- notes on the Design Process

“Why Design?” by Anna Slafer and Kevin Cahill -- notes on the Design Process


  • a paper with children’s names listed to record children’s responses during discussions
  • pens (for teachers)
  • camera
  • garden space in school yard
  • picture of the outside garden (before planting)
  • pictures of fall gardens (from magazines, books or internet)
  • white drawing paper
  • colored pencils (red, yellow, orange, brown, and green)
  • glue
  • art easel
  • paint (fall shades)
  • paint brushes
  • flowers for your area (we will use zinnias)
  • six red zinnias
  • six orange zinnias
  • six yellow zinnias
  • colored wooden craft sticks (red, yellow, and orange)
  • trowels for planting
  • clay (fall shades)
  • toothpicks (red, yellow, and orange)
  • large piece of cardboard


  • cultivate: to foster the growth of
  • garden: a plot of ground where herbs, fruits, flowers, or vegetables are cultivated (grown)
  • soil: the upper layer of earth that may be dug or plowed and in which plants grow
  • Zinnias: the flowers in our garden; any of a genus (Zinnia) of tropical American composite herbs and low shrubs that have showy flower heads with long-lasting ray flowers


Day 1:

1. Begin the lesson by presenting the children with a series of questions during your morning meeting time in order to gain their background knowledge on the subject.


  • “What is a garden?”
  •  “Where are gardens?”
  •  “What is in a garden?”
  • “What season are we in and what season is coming?”

Ask your co-teacher to record children’s responses as you lead the discussion.

2. Show the class a picture of the garden bed in your schoolyard. Take the children outside into the yard and ask them to find the garden bed they’ve seen in the picture. Once the class locates the garden bed, discuss the ways that the garden space looks (empty, brown, etc). Also discuss the ways to change the garden’s current appearance. Again, ask your co-teacher to record the children’s responses.

3. Return inside and present the class with the challenge of planting a fall garden. Help the class “investigate” by looking at pictures of fall gardens and discussing the upcoming season.  In the pictures, ask the children to identify the colors they see (red, yellow, orange, brown, green). Based, on their ability or inability to name colors, plan activities that support this skill.

4. Give the children paper, colored pencils (fall shades), cut out pictures of flowers (from magazines, books or internet), and glue. Place all of the materials in the art studio/area and ask the children to draw/create their ideas for the outside garden. Have the art easel available with brushes and fall paint shades to paint a garden.

Day 2:

1. The next day give the children an opportunity to share their garden pictures/ideas with the class.

2. Ask the children to identify the colors they used in their garden as they share their work. Note if anyone grouped all of the red flowers together, all of the yellow flowers together, or all of the orange flowers together.

3. Present the actual flowers (in their pots) that they will use for their garden to the group. Play a sorting game with the flowers. Ask the students to group all of the red flowers together, yellow flowers together, and orange flowers together.  

4. Reframe the challenge to the class. They can only fit six red flowers, six yellow flowers, and six orange flowers in the garden.  Ask the children to count the flowers in each group. Help them to determine if they need more or less of each color.

5. Break the class into three small groups and play the same game but use colored wooden craft sticks to represent the flowers.  Ask the children to sort and count the wooden craft sticks (with the same idea that they can only fit six of each color in the garden).

6. Have each group go outside (one group at a time) and place the wooden craft sticks into the garden. Ask them to put the red flowers (wooden craft sticks) together, the yellow flowers (wooden craft sticks) together, and the orange flowers (wooden craft sticks) together. Remind them that they need six of each color and that flowers need space to grow.

7. Ask them to then match the plants with the wooden craft sticks that represent the flower’s color.

8. Ask them to count the number of plants in each group aloud (again making sure that they have six of each color). 

9. Once each group has had the opportunity to place their wooden craft sticks and match their plants in the garden, assign each group a color to plant and then water.

10. When the garden is complete, take a picture of it.

Days 3 and 4:

1. Compare the before and after pictures of the garden. Talk about the process you followed. Create an inside garden that looks like your outside garden. (See Assessment)



Day 3: Compare the before and after pictures of the garden. Talk about the process you followed. Record responses and use them as assessment.

Ask the class: (compare before and after pictures of the garden)

  • What did the garden look like before we planted flowers?
  • What does the garden look like now?

Ask the class: (talk about the process you followed)

  • How did we change the garden?
  • What did we do first, second, third, etc.?


Provide the class with clay to represent the flowers in your garden, a large piece of cardboard to represent the garden bed, and colored toothpicks to represent the wooden craft sticks (in the art studio).

Propose that they make an inside garden that looks like your outside garden.

As they work through this process, ask the children to again articulate the steps they used when creating the outside garden.

Day 4:  Ask the class during meeting time:

  • “Where are gardens?”
  •  “What is in a garden?”
  • “What season are we in and what season is coming?”


Discuss with co-teacher the children’s responses. Ask each other:

  • Could the children identify the steps in the process?
  • How did the children identify the changes in the garden?
  • Is their definition of a garden different after this lesson?
  • Can they tell you what is in gardens?
  • Do they know what season you are in and what season is coming?
  • Did their representations of the garden in the art studio demonstrate that learning occurred?
By asking questions, you are giving children the opportunity to verbally express their learning. By providing art materials and proposing that children recreate the garden, you are giving children the opportunity to use materials to communicate their learning.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Read How a Plant Grows and discuss ways to care for your garden; assign student jobs to care for the garden.

Ask students to bring in pictures of gardens in their yards at home; compare and contrast different gardens

Plant a vegetable garden; have the children taste different vegetables and then vote on which vegetables will be included in the school garden you plant with the children.

Teacher Reflection


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