Learn All Year Long
ReadWriteThink has a variety of resources for out-of-school use. Visit our Parent & Afterschool Resources section to learn more.
Watching a Garden Grow
|Grades||K – 2|
|Activity Time||15 or more minutes weekly (or as desired)|
- Books about Gardening
- Gardening supplies and tools
- A notebook or pad of paper for a garden journal
- General writing supplies (such as pen, pencil, markers)
- Ruler or tape measure, glue, etc.
- Introduce the idea of a garden by sharing a book about gardening like Garden Friends or discussing a garden that the child remembers from the past. You can also introduce the project by talking about any plant that the child has helped care for, such as a potted plant.
- After reading a book together, mark it on a Reading Record.
- Discuss plans for your garden together. You can discuss any of the questions below as you talk about the project:
- What will we grow?
- What time of year do these items need to be planted?
- How much sunlight and water do they require?
- Is there a location that is best for planting?
- Where will the garden be-in a plot, on the windowsill, or in a container?
- What materials will we need for the garden project?
- How will we divide the responsibilities for the garden?
- What will happen to what we grow in the garden?
If you live in an urban area, seek out community resources on urban gardening, such as shared plots and other cooperative projects. Also consult Urban Gardening's Container Gardening page for additional ideas.
- Once you have decided on the location for the garden and collected the materials, begin planting the garden.
- Together, read the back of the seed packets for instructions, or read any directions on potted plants.
- When you and the child are done planting, ask the child to record the day's activities in a "gardening journal," a notebook or pad of paper that you devote to the garden.
- Write down the date and time of day on the page.
- Ask the child to describe how and where you planted your seeds.
- Have the child add an illustration of the seed on the page.
- If desired, you can also tape or glue the seed packet or label from the potted plant into the journal.
- Store the notebook in a safe place, and explain that you'll return to the notebook to add details as the garden grows.
Tracking the Garden's Growth
- Throughout the garden's growth, invite the child to add details and questions to the garden journal. Encourage writing and illustrating, and remind the child to always date the entries! Knowing how much time has passed from one observation to another will be important for future activities.
- Work together to record the garden's different stages of growth in the garden journal.
- Before the seeds begin to grow, invite the child to make predictions by responding to questions such as the following in the journal:
- What will happen to the seed?
- What is the first thing we will see?
- How tall will the plant grow to be?
- What colors will we see?
- What if the plant doesn't grow?
- While waiting for the plants to sprout, the child can use the garden journal to try the following projects:
- Read an additional book about gardening like Garden Friends and compare the garden in the book to the garden the child is tracking. Ask the child to make notes in the garden journal of anything to watch for.
- Write creative stories about gardens and gardening.
- Compose a theme poem about the garden or a plant in it. Visit the Theme Poem Tool page to learn how the tool works, and check that your computer has the necessary Flash plug-in installed. Once you've prepared, have the student work with you at the computer to choose a nature shape and write a poem. Print the poem and add it to the journal.
- Take pictures or draw illustrations of other gardens and ask the child to write about favorite things about the garden and how the garden is similar to the garden you are growing together.
- Describe a trip to the store to buy additional gardening supplies.
- Note any care that you provide the garden, such as watering or weeding, in the garden journal.
- Once the plants have sprouted, you and the child can focus on the appearance of the plants and their development by composing journal entries like these:
- Draw what the plants look like as they sprout. If you have a camera, take photos and add them to the journal. Have the child label the pictures and add details on what they notice about the sprout.
- Use a ruler or tape measure to record the height of the plants. Draw a graph in the journal to track the changes over time.
- Compare how different plants grow, and think about why some plants grow faster than others.
- Compare pictures of fully-grown plants with the young plants in the garden and ask the child to write about the differences and similarities. The child can write, draw, or complete a Venn Diagram (online or with a mobile app) of the findings.
- Collect and press a few leaves, flowers, or other finds in the journal.
- Check the plants at different times of day, and ask the child to record any differences in the plants' appearance. How does the plants' appearance in the early morning compare to their appearance around sunset? What do the plants look like in the middle of the afternoon?
- Describe other things that live in the garden and talk about their purpose in the garden.
- Ask children to imagine what gardening would be like in a different setting. How would gardening in a backyard plot differ from gardening on a rooftop in a city?
- Looking at more mature plants, the child can use the garden journals to try the following projects:
- Describe the leaves on the plants, considering vein pattern, color, texture, shape, and leaf size.
- Observe the flowers-list their attributes, dissect the flowers, separate the parts and pieces.
- Describe the plants using as many of the five senses as possible.
- Write about a change they noticed in the garden since the last time they observed.
- If resources allow, you might experiment with watering one plant more than another or adding fertilizer to one plant and not another. Ask the child to look for signs of the effects these differences made in the plants' growth.
- If your garden is outside, put on your raincoat, and check the plants during a rainstorm. Ask the child to notice how the plants collect rainwater and describe the plants in the garden journal.
- Write about how the weather affects the plants. How does a rainy day change the plants' appearance? What if there's no rain for a week?
- If you live in an area with high levels of air or water pollution, write about how differing daily pollution levels affect the plants' growth and appearance.
- Write a description of the garden from the point of view of the root, stem, leaf, or flower of a plant.
- When harvest time comes, have the child continue garden journal entries with the following projects:
- Measure the size of the vegetables or the height of flowers grown in the garden. Track the size in the journal.
- If you have vegetables from the garden, have the child taste the food both raw and cooked and then write about the differences in taste. Write down recipes that you try with your harvest and have the child describe how the dish tasted.
- Jot down a list of ways to use what you've grown in the garden. The child might plan a party and serve food from the garden, or if non-edible plants and flowers were grown, the child might help you plan ways to give them away as gifts.
- Compare photos or illustrations of the plants' buds from earlier pages in the journal to the vegetables or flowers. Describe the differences in a journal entry.
A written record of thoughts, ideas, and observations, often updated daily.
Researching a topic or question can take many different forms, from year-long studies resulting in publication to a quick search of available resources on the Internet. For these activities, we refer to research in the informal sense, using readily available resources (Internet, magazines, books, interviews, etc.) to answer questions.
Discussion is a natural way for children and teens to express or explain what they already know or what they are learning. When possible, let children and teens lead the direction of a discussion. Ask questions that lead to an extended response (“What do you think about…?” or “Why do you think…?”) rather than questions that might result in a yes or no or a simple answer.