K-12 curriculum: School gardens as a teaching tool

Published on: 
24 Apr 2018
Kristen Keim

With more daylight and warming temperatures, spring is a great time to implement content from Captain Planet Foundation’s Project Learning Garden, a new program on Learning Lab.

The Project Learning Garden Program encourages educators to consider the school garden as an extension of the traditional classroom, rather than as an extracurricular activity. All Learning Garden lessons are tied to Common Core curriculum standards, encourage inquiry-based learning, provide hands-on experiential learning and guide the teacher towards the Next Generation Science Standards. Each lesson also provides an environmental stewardship learning opportunity.

The program currently includes four lessons for grades K1. More lessons will be added over the summer.

Alysa Moore of Captain Planet Foundation shares what’s special about the Project Learning Garden Program:

How is viewing a garden as an extension to the classroom beneficial to students and teachers?

There is no better place to engage in experiential learning than outdoors and in the garden, where you can get a front-row seat to live displays of biology. Even aside from the natural opportunities for STEM learning, research has shown that school garden programs can contribute to student achievement and development in many ways.

Students engaged in garden programming show improvements in academic achievement (particularly in STEM areas), in physical health and nutrition, in mental health and behavior and in environmental literacy and connection to the outdoors.

How does the Learning Garden curriculum introduce teachers to using a garden as a learning tool?

When we designed our curriculum, we wanted to create lessons that would help teachers see the garden as a natural extension of the indoor space they were already accustomed to teaching in. With a low barrier to entry, the Project Learning Garden curriculum makes taking those first steps in outdoor learning easier for educators, so that the choice to take learning outside is an easy one.

If a teacher only has time to teach one lesson, which one should it be?

We love all the lessons, of course, but we’d definitely recommend Garden Safari. With a simple scavenger hunt and mystery boxes, this lesson is a relatively low-preparation opportunity to take students outside and practice outdoor classroom management while engaging students in a sensory experience of their environment.

Scavenger hunts in the garden and outdoor classroom can also easily be adapted for other standards (shapes, colors, parts of a plant, etc.), so it’s a lesson that can be repeated in different seasons and multiple grades.

Explore the Captain Planet Foundation’s Learning Garden curriculum