Gardening in the Classroom


"Their minds were not made to sit and be taught. They were built to explore, play, and learn."

- How Wee Learn


School gardens can be an asset to every learner and teacher, Pre-K through grade 12, and curriculum can be connected to the garden through math, science, language arts, health, fine arts, social studies, music, and physical education.

If you are interesting in connecting your classroom with a garden, explore the resources below and connect with your local Illinois Extension office

Utilizing the School Garden

Learn How to Start a School Garden

    Incorporate Gardening into your Curriculum


    • Analyze and describe the shapes of plants, leaves, and produce.
    • Measure plants and produce (with standard or non-standard tools).
    • Cut up a vegetable to practice fractions.
    • Use various seeds for addition and subtraction.
    • Race beans up a trellis. Plant beans at the base of a trellis and track their growth on a chart.
    • Predict dates of germination and maturity by using information from seed sources.
    • Determine when each crop should be planted by counting backward from the harvest date.
    • Measure the garden perimeter and calculate the area.
    • Create a map of the garden to scale using graph paper.

    Social Studies

    • Plant a Three Sisters Native American garden.
    • Research the history of a garden plant.
    • Draw a garden map to scale.
    • Study all the ways people use different plants.

    Language Arts

    • Read books and stories about plants and gardens.
    • Write and illustrate a collection of garden stories and poems.
    • Use the garden as a space to journal.
    • Brainstorm different adjectives to describe each plant in your garden.
    • Study new vocabulary that relates to plants and gardens.
    • Write step-by-step instructions for common garden activities
    • Follow written instructions to perform a garden task like planting seeds.
    • Write a research paper on a favorite plant.
    • Learn about the origins of scientific plant names.
    • Act out a story in the garden. Check out the Junior Master Gardener Program & American Horticultural Society lists of plant, garden, and ecology fiction books for children.
    • Design your own story garden.
    • Design a garden around the theme of a book.
    • Relax and read in the garden


    • Answer questions about the garden by investigating with their senses, reasoning, and communication skills.
    • Key science concepts by exploring the gardens
      • organisms
      • cycles
      • requirements for life
      • plant and insect anatomy
      • adaptations
      • food webs
      • soil structure & decomposition
      • interdependence
      • pollination
      • weather and climate monitoring
      • biodiversity
    • Practice experimental design skills by observing, classifying, concluding, measuring, predicting, organizing, and interpreting data, forming hypotheses, and identifying variables.


    • Create paintings and drawings of garden plants.
    • Create dyes and watercolors from plants and flowers.
    • Make a seed mosaic.
    • Create a color wheel collage using nature items or pictures from old seed catalogs.
    • Stamp with various plant parts.
    • Use leaves to make crayon rubbings or fossils in clay.

    Health & Nutrition

    • Study the nutritional value of the crops in your garden.
    • Identify the parts of the plant with common fruits and vegetables.
    • Taste test different fruits and vegetables.
    • Grow a salad garden and give students a chance to sample the harvest.


    The following resources that are not affiliated with Illinois Extension are provided for our clients' convenience and do not imply endorsement.

    Garden Curriculum

    • Illinois Pollinators, Illinois Extension
      Grades: K-8. Lesson plans and hands-on activities for youth to explore different pollinators and what they can do to support them. Topics: butterflies, bees, pollination, pollinator support.
    • Garden-Based Learning, Cornell
      Grades: 2-8. Short, stand-alone lessons and activities, plus curricula designed to be taught in multiple sessions. All are adaptable and vary in length.
    • School Garden Resources & Curriculum, University of Georgia Extension
      Grades: K-8. Lessons in multiple subject areas, arranged by grade level: Earth science, life science, physical science, English and Language Arts, math, and social studies. Includes a bilingual Spanish-English/English-Spanish garden dictionary for elementary students.
    • Kids Gardening
      Grades: PekK-12. Lesson plans that utilize the garden as an outdoor classroom. Nutrition, pollinators and wildlife, soils and environment, plant science, and arts and culture.


    • Books in Bloom: Discovering the Plant Biology in Great Children's Literature
    • Botany on Your Plate: Investigate the Plants We Eat
    • GrowLab®: A Complete Guide to Gardening in the Classroom
    • Junior Master Gardener Program: Grow, Eat & Go, Teacher Guide and Student Handbook, Wildlife Gardener, Literature in the Garden, Health & Nutrition from the Garden
    • Math in the Garden: Hands-on Activities that Bring Math to Life
    • The Growing Classroom: Garden-Based Science & Nutrition Activity Guide


    • Klemmer, C.D., Waliczek, T.M., & Kajicek, J.M. 2005. Growing minds: The Effect of a school gardening program on the science achievement of elementary students. HortTechnology 15(3):448-452.
    • Mayer-Smith, J., Bartosh, O., & Peterat, L. (2007). Teaming children and elders to grow food and environmental consciousness. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 6(1), 77-85.
    • Morris, J. & Zinderberg-Cherr, S. 2002. Garden-enhanced nutrition curriculum improved fourth-grade school children’s knowledge of nutrition and preference of vegetables. Journal of the American Diabetic Association, 102(1), 91-93.
    • Robinson, C. W., & Zajicek, J. M. 2005. Growing minds: The effect of a one-year school garden program on six constructs of life skills of elementary school children. HortTechnology 15(3): 453-457