Advanced Preparation: gather a few tools to be used for weeding the garden and turning the soil. The students should wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
The students gather on the carpet as I introduce the concept of the school garden. I then read a book to the students about gardening and then head out to the garden to weed and turn the soil. Upon our return to the classroom, the students will participate in a conversation that connects their knowledge of roots and plant needs to the task of clearing weeds and prepping the soil. The lesson ends with the students creating a "journal entry" about the first step in planting a garden.
Planting a garden is not part of our districts curriculum but rather a part of our school's culture. Each year every class is given a crop or two to plant in the garden. The garden is tended to throughout the summer and the crops are used in our school lunch. The garden lessons in this unit will tie into their learning of plant needs and will culminate with a "How To" Poster on Gardening
I gather the students on the carpet to read the book, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner. I am choosing to read this book because it does a great job of outlining the whole garden process. Although the students will have to wait until the fall to harvest, I will use books like this one to teach the entire gardening process.
I want to read a story to you called Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. Once I am done reading, I am will ask you to tell me the steps in the gardening process.
The steps that I want to outline are:
1. weeding the garden and prepping the soil
2. planting seeds and/or plants, mulching
3. watering, weeding
The students go outside to prep the gardening for planting. The goal for today's lesson will be to pull up all of weeds, to turn the soil, and to mix in Moo Doo (manure). Before starting, I review the tasks and lead a quick discussion about the importance of weeding.
"We are now going to go outside to the garden. Once we get out there, I will explain what plots have been assigned to our class."
Once the students are in the garden, I show them two two plots that are class has been assigned to take care of. I explain their job, of pulling weeds, to them and then have them start.
"These are our two plots. We will grow two different crops in them. Before we can plant, we have to pull out all of the weeds. I am going to put you into teams. Each team will be given a pail/bucket. Your job is to pull the weed out down near the base of the stem and to try and pull out all of the root as well. Then you can place the weed into the bucket. Once the plots are weed free, I will show you what the next step will be."
Once the weeds are all out, I will talk to them about turning over the soil and about mixing in the manure. I want them to understand that this gives the plants more of the nutrients the plants need to grow.
"Now that the weeds are all gone. You are going to use these shovels to turn the soil over (I model with a shovel). Once we have all of the soil turned over, I will ask for some of you mix in the manure. Then we will use the shovels to mix up the soil and the manure by turning it over and over (again I model)."
The students return to the classroom. Once there, I ask them to take out their science notebooks and ask them to set it up for today's entry. I have them write about the work they did in the garden. They can use words and pictures to explain their work and the steps that they did today. These entries will serve as reference notes when they write their procedural piece on day 5 (see explanation in the next section.
"I would like you to open up your notebooks for today's entry. Today's focus is 'working in the garden, day 1.' Once your notebook is set up, I would like you to explain what you did today. You can use words and pictures to help explain what you accomplished."
As I stated in the Setting the Stage section of this lesson, This (planting a garden) is not a mandated curriculum by our district. It is a school collaboration that happens on a yearly basis. It becomes a community affair with kids and families taking care of it over the summer.
There is no set assessment required for this mini-unit. So, I use it as an opportunity to assess the students' ability to write a procedural piece. At the end of the mini-unit, they will be asked to write a piece that explains the steps in planting and maintaining a garden. I will allow the students to use their notes from their science notebook entries to help support their writing. This assignment will happen on Day 5 of the mini-unit.
On Day 4, I use the results of the plant need experiment to tie in how all of the garden steps help plants get the things they need to survive.