School Gardens


Someday every school will have an outdoor learning area (garden) where students can experience all subjects through real-world, hands-on activities. Outdoor learning areas (gardens) will be a vital part of teaching all subjects. Curricula will effectively integrate outdoor learning areas (gardens) and computer technology into all subjects.

What is a School Garden?

Any outdoor learning space that is on the school grounds. It may be a formal vegetable garden, a flower garden, a beautifully landscaped area, or even a single tree on an otherwise barren school ground.

When should you start a school garden?

Today. It doesn't matter what time of year it is, lets get going! There are lots of activities in science, math, reading, writing, history, culture and any other subject, that can occur any time of year.

Where are school gardens?

Most often they are on the school grounds. However, they can be anywhere that students can experience real-world, hands-on learning.

Why have school gardens?

Because students and teachers need them. Outdoor learning areas (gardens) can provide hands-on learning opportunities that are not available otherwise. They provide areas of exploration, opportunities to design and conduct science experiments, areas to experience and solve real math problems, areas to experience children's stories (ie. Peter Rabbit) and a rich source for art, writing and almost anything else that is studied.

To illustrate the subjects that could be enhanced through experience in the school garden, look at the National Science Research Council's Science and Technology for children program. Click the links for ideas on using gardens to explore each subject.

Grade Life Science Earth Science Physical Science Technology
1 Organisms Weather Solids and Liquids Comparing and Measuring
2 Life Cycle of Butterflies Soils Changes Balancing and Weighing
3 Plant Growth and Development Rocks and Minerals Chemical Tests Sound
4 Animal Studies Land and Water Electric Circuits Motion and Design
5 Microworlds Ecoystems Food Chemistry Floating and Sinking
6 Experiments with Plants Measuring Time Magnets and Motors The Technology of Paper

Garden Experiments: Organisms

Explore the organisms in your School Garden:

  • What organisms can you find on the ground?
  • What organisms are under the ground?
  • What organisms are above the ground?
  • Describe each of these organisms.
  • How are they alike?
  • How are they different?
  • How do they change in the spring and in the fall?
  • How long are the organisms?
  • How wide are they?
  • How tall are they?
  • How much do they weigh?
Questions for Experiments:
What happens when:
  • It gets more water than normal?
  • It get less water than normal?
  • The temperature gets below freezing?
  • The temperature gets above 90F?
Problem Solving:
  • Do all organisms act the same when the temperature gets colder?
  • Do all organisms act the same when the temperature gets hotter?
  • Which organisms do you think will respond most quickly to changes in temperature?

Garden Experiments: Soils

Explore the soil in your School Garden:

  • Is all your soil the same?
What colors are your soils?
  • What is in your soil?
  • How are your soils alike?
  • How are your soils different?
  • What do your soils feel like in your hands?
  • What happens to your soils when you add water to them?
  • Soil weight (dry vs. wet).
  • Weight that is rock, organic matter, other.
  • Are there any chemical reactions with acids or bases?
Questions for experiments:
  • Is one of your soils better for growing chile?
  • How much sand/silt/clay is in your soils?
  • How does water move through your different soils?
  • Is soil type related to soil weight?
Problem Solving:
  • If one soil is better for growing chile, would it be better for growing alfalfa?
  • Based on the amount of sand, silt and clay which soil would you want for growing onions?
  • Based on the amount of sand, silt and clay, which soil would you want to prevent flooding?