Garden observations and questions

Sprouts of bean plants in cups of soil.Gardening with children may turn up questions voiced by the children or suggested by their behavior. As you observe children in the garden or a natural area, take a few notes about what they look at or touch. Model how you wonder about a phenomenon in the garden by saying it aloud, such as, “Is this sprout taller today than it was yesterday?” Not all questions can be investigated by children. “Why are most leaves green?” is a question that can be researched in books or online, but not investigated by young children. Children can investigate “Are there any leaves that are not green?”

The December 2010 issue of Science and Children addresses questions in many articles. Linda Froschauer, Field Editor of Science and Children, writes in the Editor’s Note “Investigable questions are important elements of lessons that promote inquiry and help students construct meaning. Good questions help students make links between what they know, what they want to find out, what they observe, and how their observations fit within the context of their learning and development.” Asking questions, and planning and carrying out investigations, are two of the Science and Engineering Practices identified in A Framework for K-12 Science Education, one of the foundational documents for the Next Generation Science Standards.

Green bean vines on a trellis.Here are some other questions that children can investigate in a garden:

Do all vines go around a pole in the same direction?

Do day lily flowers close up at a certain time in the evening or do they stay open longer if they are in bright light indoors?

Child looks at plants with holes in the leaves.Why are there holes in this leaf? Is something eating it?

Water drops beading up on a leaf.What happens to a leaf when rain falls on it?

“Where are seeds made?” is a question to investigate over time by making observations of more than one plant. Child observes before drawing.While drawing a plant in the garden children may notice more than when walking through the space. A simple “journal” of a sheet of paper folded in quarters and a marker are all the materials needed to give children time to observe and think about what’s happening in a garden.

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2 Comments

  1. Jenna DePizzo
    Posted July 3, 2015 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    As mentioned in this blog post, the garden is a beautiful place to explore and learn for young children! Here, they can learn about the nature of science in a beautiful, organic environment that is both engaging and ever-changing. The probing questions listed above are just the beginning…there is no limit to what a student can learned in the great outdoors!
    Working in an inner city school, I’ve come to realize that many students do not have the opportunity to garden or even just observe a garden in their home lives, as I did as a child. Growing up in 4-H on my grandparent’s farm, I learned where my food came from at a young age, facts that many of my first graders are shockingly learning for the very first time in my classroom. In my opinion, this is an incredibly important life skill that we cannot overlook.
    My school does not have access to a garden on our campus, so I had to become very creative in my quest to give my students this hands-on experience. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my community was incredibly helpful! Below, I’ve listed the organizations that helped me. Be sure to check them out for some excellent (FREE!) guidance and resources!
    • Growing Up Wild and the Division of Wildlife at http://www.projectwild.org/growingupwild.htm: Growing up Wild is a curriculum that focuses in outdoor education. I become certified in this program (for free!) years ago, and have found the guide book to be invaluable. They have many resources on their website, as well.
    • My local 4-H educators and clubs at http://www.4-h.org : After contacting my county 4-H office, I was put in touch with a wealth of resources…including two guest speakers, Farmer Dave and Farmer Deb!
    • My county’s Soil and Water Conservation District (Google to find your’s!): These folks came into my classroom with open arms, bringing soil samples, hands on activities, and a conservation themed contest! They gave my students prizes, stickers, literature, the works…all for free!
    • Master Gardeners at http://www.ahs.org/gardening-resources/master-gardeners: Yes, there are master gardeners out there! They arranged for my students to visit their gorgeous gardens, including a children’s garden that my students and I explored for over an hour! Each of my students went home with a pack of seeds as well as a freshly potted plant.

  2. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted July 4, 2015 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing the wealth of resources that supported your teaching, Jenna! A great way to feed children’s minds while providing a taste of freshly harvested food.

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