Category Archives: Instructional Activities

School Garden Lessons, Activities and Curricula

Jerusalem Artichoke

When I first started working in school gardens my initial focus was on getting kids to eat healthy. To that end I would plant as many varieties as possible knowing that young gardeners love anything they plant and nurture themselves.

As school gardens got more popular however, more and more teachers were asking how to incorporate school gardens into their everyday lesson plans. Learning to eat healthy was just one of many topics that needed to be covered. Peruse the websites below and you will find activities and lesson plans that also relate to art, science, math, and social studies.  Also please note many are broken down by grade.

1) School Garden Lessons from

2) School Garden Curricula Grades K-12 from National Environmental Education Foundation

3) 15 Lessons for 1, 2 and 3 graders (72 page pdf)

4) 15 Lessons for 4 and 5 graders (61 page pdf)

5) Curriculum ideas from California School Garden Network

6) Agriculture in the Classroom – Lesson Plans from USDA

7) School Garden Lesson Plans from Virginia Tech Horticulture Department

8) Nature’s Partner’s – Pollinator, Plants, and You (Comprehensive pollinator curriculum for grades 3-6)

9) School garden activities arranged by season

10) Lesson Plans and Curricula – Garden ABCs

Clearing, Harvesting and Seed-Saving

If you’re lucky enough to have a year round garden like Hamilton High School first week of school you’re still harvesting. The local food bank has been getting donations of tomatoes, squash, eggplant, basil, peppers, and okra.

At West Hollywood Elementary School the garden is not open year-round so during the first week of school students clear all the weeds and expired annuals and save seeds from artichokes (beneath the tuft of hair), cilantro (not shown), fennel and marigolds.

Next week we’ll add amendments, turn the soil and lay out our rows. Stayed tuned.

Ten School Garden Activities for September

Welcome back teachers and students.

September in a school garden is one of our busiest times. We need to get started quickly to insure a harvest before the long winter break.

For those without a school garden the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has written an extensive online manual, Setting up and Running a School Garden.

For those returning to an existing garden there is much to do. Preparing the beds for another season of seed sowing and transplanting is probably the hardest job physically we will have all year. Organizing a garden day with other parents, teachers, students and volunteers is something you may want to consider.

The following ten activities should be done (more or less) in order:

1) Discuss garden rules and tool safety. For those unfamiliar with garden rules these are the basics: a) No running in the garden; b) No walking in the beds; c) No running with tools; d) Do not carry or swing tools on your back; e) Do not bring hands tools over your shoulder; f) Walk with the tool by your side, blade down; g) Return all tools to their proper place immediately after use; h) Do not leave tools in the garden; i) Anyone not following these rules does not get to work in the garden.

2) Search for dried flower heads and seed pods in which to save seed (i.e. sunflowers, marigolds, lettuce, fennel, cilantro, beans, etc).

3) Clear beds of everything other than perennials (i.e. herbs and strawberries).

4) Collect all organic refuse and compost it. For more information on composting see The School Garden Resource page at the California Waste Management Board and the 8-page pdf, Guide to Home Composting from the Los Angeles Department of Public Works.

5) Add amendments (i.e. organic compost, aged manure) to existing soil, mix well and turn soil top to bottom and bottom to top. See video, How to Amend a Raised Bed.

6) Review the pdf, Vegetable Family Chart. At this time of year we will be planting cool-weather crops. There’s actually more to choose from now than there is in the spring.

7) Read seed packets for specific information regarding height and row spacing. (Taller plants go in the rear so as not to cast shadows on smaller plants.) See How to Read a Seed Packet.

8) Plan and design garden space.

9) Lay out rows. (Ideally, rows should be perpendicular to the arc of the sun.)

10) Sow seeds and/or transplant seedlings. Set up irrigation schedule.

Woolly School Gardens – Grow it Vertically

Woolly Pockets is sponsoring a program to bring gardens to schools. More information at

Sow Easy – Indoor School Garden Activity

By Lisa Gustavson,

Are you looking for an easy garden project to occupy your time while early sown seeds germinate and snows melt away? Seed tapes are the answer. They’re super-simple to make, use everyday items in your home and make sowing small seeds like lettuces and flowers a snap! Seed tapes are simply paper strips with seeds adhered to them. They make planting and spacing small seeds outdoors faster and easier.

What you’ll need: A paper towel or napkin, flour (organic), a small paintbrush and seeds. You may want to recycle a cardboard tube to roll the seed tapes around as well.

First: Mix the flour with enough water to make a medium-thick paste. Don’t worry about exact amounts, just so long as the paste is thick enough for the seeds to stick to.

Next: Use the paintbrush to dab the flour paste at equally spaced increments along the paper towel. Use the packet as a guide for spacing and a ruler if you’d like it to be precise. You can fit several rows along each sheet of paper towel.

Last: Press two or three seeds gently onto each dab of paste making sure they adhere. Let the strip dry completely and cut between each row of seeds. Roll up each strip and store in a plastic bag in a cool dry place until planting time.

This is a great project for children! Clean-up is a snap and if there is flour paste left over it can be thinned with more water and used to decoupage seed packets and flower pictures from catalogs to clay or plastic pots. (Be sure to coat with an eco-friendly sealant so they’ll be waterproof.) It’s sow easy!

Grow LA Victory Garden Classes at Saturn Elementary School

The University of California Cooperative Extension is organizing workshops in various communities throughout Los Angeles County to teach residents how to grow their own vegetables. I am excited to be teaching one at Saturn Elementary School. You’re all invited.

4 Sunday classes (12 noon – 3 PM) beginning 4/11/10

Saturn Elementary School
5360 Saturn St.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

List of topics includes:
Week 1 (Sunday April 11): planning, tools, seed starting, building raised beds, choosing containers, plant selection (what to grow and when to grow it)

Week 2 (Sunday, April 18): transplanting, soil preparation, irrigation, mulching

Week 3 (Sunday April 25): pest management (weeds, diseases, insects), beneficial insects, organic pesticides and fertilizers.

Week 4 (Sunday May 2): composting, harvesting, seed saving, review, recipes, graduation and certificates

The cost of these workshops is $10 for each class or $35.00 for all four.

Payment can be made online here, or by bringing cash or check to the first meeting. Please make checks payable to: The Rings of Saturn.

All monies will benefit the Saturn Elementary School Student Garden.

Please RSVP, space is limited.

Contact Information:
George Pessin
Email –
Tel – 310-652-4642

* Kids under 12 are free with a paid adult.

Seed-Saving and Seed Study for Educators

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) School Garden Program announces the release of “A Handful of Seeds” – a new publication on seed saving and seed study for educators.

This guide is available now as a free PDF download on their website. CLICK HERE to download the 91 page (1.6MB) full color illustrated guide.  Inside you will find lessons linked to California Educational Standards, practical information on seed saving in the school garden and seed history and lore.