Every September, as the school year kicks off, I like to take stock of all the garden-based teaching resources that sit on my bookshelf untouched all summer. I do this partly out of necessity—flipping through pages to gather content that I can share with teachers interested in lessons on composting, life cycles, pollination, etc.—but I also do this to simply get inspired.
I love reading lesson plans but I realize that for many teachers, there just isn’t enough time in the day to sit down and read through an entire curriculum, and that’s assuming you’ve found a resource that resonates with you. And there are so many incredible garden-based curriculums and how-to books out there that it can feel overwhelming figuring out which ones to invest your limited time in. Which is why I’m sharing my five favorite garden-based curriculums in this week’s blog.
KidsGardening’s Math in the Garden: I love this book for it’s incredibly clear ties to math topics, everything from measuring with nonstandard units to graphing and data analysis. If you’re looking to integrate the garden into your classroom studies for the first time, this is a great resource to investigate.
Favorite Lessons: Area and Perimeter of Leaves and Locating Garden Treasures
Life Lab’s The Growing Classroom: In this classic text, lessons are grouped thematically and are even listed in an online database that lets you search by Next Generation Science and Common Core Math and English Language Arts Standards. The book also has an extensive appendix that includes companion planting guides, composting tips, instructions for building a root view boxes, an English to Spanish garden vocabulary list and much more.
Favorite Lessons: Seedy Character, Space Travelers, and Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other
The Food Project’s French Fries and the Food System: I constantly reference this resource for much of my work with middle and high school students. All of the units and projects provide an in-depth look at farming and food systems and are structured to build upon each other sequentially (though you can definitely facilitate lessons independently of the entire curriculum). The Food Project is well known for the incredible hands-on work they do in engaging youth in social change and cultivating personal growth through food and agriculture; their curriculum is a great guide for how to do the same in your own community.
Favorite Lessons: Trace the French Fry and Garden/Farm Planning Unit
Shelburne Farms’ Project Seasons: This compilation of lesson plans doesn’t just focus on gardening, it includes all sorts of seasonally themed activities focused on connecting youth to the outdoors and the concept of sustainability. And while some lessons focus on geographically specific topics (maple sugaring for example) the majority of activities are easily adaptable to any location.
Favorite Lessons: Grocery Bag Botany, Tomato Planet, and Meet a Tree
Project Food, Land and People: While this resource looks intimidating (it’s nearly 1000 pages) it’s incredible in it’s depth. Each lesson includes extensive “supporting information” and “additional resources” sections that give context to both the educator and student, not to mention ready-to-use worksheets and numerous suggestions for activity extensions. Like French Fries and the Food System, this mammoth curriculum tackles agricultural topics that stretch beyond a school garden.
Favorite Lessons: Buzzy, Buzzy Bee, Perc Through the Pores, and Tomatoes to Ketchup
- My Kids Aren’t In the Garden
- Digging Into Soil
- Maintaining Youth Engagement in the Garden All Summer Long
- Strawberries in a Hanging Basket
- Plant a Seed and Watch it Grow – or Not
- Monarch Monitoring
- Say YES to High School Gardening Intensives
- Learning to Love the Earth
- Budding Botanist Grantee Visits
- Why Every School Should Plant a Pollinator Garden