Unit 4: Project-based Learning in the Garden

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Unit Four Learning Objectives

Flower 2.gifUpon completion of this unit, participants will:

~Identify curricular connections to garden-based technology, art, service learning, and health and nutrition

~Identify and develop garden-based lesson plans using extensions to technology, art, health, nutrition and other content areas

~Explore case studies and identify results of garden-based learning in student achievement

~Adopt teaching strategies of integrating garden-based learning into a project-based curriculum

~Design a project-based unit of lessons that fulfill educational goals and focus on garden-based learning principles and learner-centered assessment


Congratulations! You've made it to the last unit of this course. Your garden-based learning discovery now brings the connection to other content areas, such as technology, art, service learning, health and nutrition. Take a step back and look at the big picture and visual how the school garden can be the center of a comprehensive project-based unit of study.

Through journal reflection and group discussion, you will further explore and discuss existing school programs and curriculum that can be incorporated into your daily lessons. In addition, you will round out your portfolio "tool box" with a project-based learning unit that will fulfil your educational goals. Lastly, you will write a post-course reflective evaluation of this course, and discuss how you will use garden-based learning in the future.


Poinitng pepper.jpgArt Lessons in the Garden?

Refer back to your readings and other available resources in this unit to explore how garden-based learning connects to other areas of the curriculum, such as art, music, technology, health and nutrition. Although they are not required, the articles and resources in the 'additional resources' section in this unit are worth looking at, and you can also browse the lessons and activities at http://blogs.cornell.edu/garden/get-activities/signature-projects/ and http://www.kidsgardening.org/teachers.asp for more ideas.

Poinitng pepper.jpgTechnology Lessons in the Garden?

See how second grade students describe their experiences in their school vegetable garden, using technology in the process at http://www.schooltube.com/video/81c53be1a40c43819377/Spoede-Garden-Harvestfest

View two or more student-created videos from the "School Tube" site at http://www.schooltube.com/videosearch?q=garden&search-submit=Search

Reflect on how these students and schools are using technology to meet educational goals and learning objectives across the curriculum, and write them in the "Case Study and Reflection" section of this unit.

Project-Based Learning in the Garden

Project-based learning provides students with “real-world” learning activities that are “similar to the activities that adult professionals [and experts] engage in (Krajcik and Blumenfeld. 2006, p. 317). Garden-based learning is a natural for project-based lessons in your curriculum and also provides unique service-learning opportunities for students to give back to members of the community who may be less fortunate.

Poinitng pepper.jpgTake a look at two featured projects: the "Wildlife Habitat Garden" and "Seed to Salad"

Wildlife Gardening & environmental stewardship


A Wildlife Habitat project is one promotes environmental stewardship, and is ongoing and ever-evolving year after year. It can either be a small-scale project to include native plants that attract butterflies and beneficial insects, or it can become a full-fledged "Certified National Wildlife Schoolyard Habitat" which is an award bestowed by the National Wildlife Foundation. Take a look at this overview of a project-based learning opportunity using a school garden as an outdoor learning lab: Media:Wildlife_habitat_project.pdf and visit the National Wildlife Federation at http://www.nwf.org/Get-Outside/Outdoor-Activities/Garden-for-Wildlife/Schoolyard-Habitats.aspx

Seed to Salad & fresh fruits & veggies for all!


One of the biggest challenges of a school vegetable garden is that students do not see the fruits of their labor, because most of our commonly grown fruits and vegetables are ready to harvest over the summer months when school is not in session. The Ithaca Children's Garden, located near Cornell University has developed a "Seed to Salad" project that can be incorporated into the school-wide curriculum. This project can be planned and executed within one given school year, depending whether the school has an existing garden or not. It is designed for students to enjoy the bounty of their harvest before the school year ends.

The project begins in February and ends with a celebratory "salad party" before students break for summer. And yes, children do get excited about eating a salad of fresh vegetables, especially when veggies are personally planted and cared for by the students themselves. There's also an opportunity for a service learning component, in which students can harvest and donate their produce to local food pantries and soup kitchens through programs such as "Plant a Row for the Hungry"(PAR). You can learn more about PAR in the additional resource section of this unit.

Take a look at Cornell University's Seed to Salad Project at http://blogs.cornell.edu/garden/get-activities/signature-projects/seed-to-salad/

Group Discussion

After reading about these project-based gardening programs, please discuss the following with your classmates:

Poinitng pepper.jpg What are some other examples of project-based lessons that can be cultivated from the school garden? What cross-curricular connections can be made?

Case Study & Reflection

Poinitng pepper.jpgJournal Entry: Reflect on how the students and schools in the videos on "School Tube" are using technology to meet educational goals and learning objectives across the curriculum.

Your Portfolio

Carrot.jpgNow, it's teacher's turn to learn!

Browse through the many garden-based lessons found in your readings and "additional resources" in this unit, and practice one lesson that focuses on learning objectives for subjects other than the core content areas, such as art, music, health, nutrition, technology, etc. The lesson should engage students in real-world activities that can connect to other content areas.

Carrot.jpgInclude in your portfolio a critique of your "practice" lesson.

Next, you will build the framework for a project-based unit for your portfolio "tool box". The unit should focus on garden-based principles that fulfill the educational objectives of your existing curriculum.

Carrot.jpgYou may use any grade level(s) for this project

1. Create an outline and overview of a project-based unit which includes at least 5 lesson plans that focus on garden-based learning principles and target learning objectives. You may chose to include any of your individual practice lessons or lessons you created in this course, or anything that you already use in the classroom. If you choose a lesson from an outside source, or a lesson from a reading assignment or resource in this course, remember to use APA guidelines to cite and reference appropriately.

2. Design a detailed plan of learner-centered assessments for your project-based unit, following the same approaches you've read about and discussed. Include a description of your particular approach in your portfolio.

Final Evaluation & Reflection

Now that you've completed this course, in your journal reflect on how you have 'grown' as an educator now that you've learned the 'roots' and principles of garden-based learning, and have a better understanding of how to 'cultivate' authentic learning and assessment through place-based learning in the garden (200-250 words):

Poinitng pepper.jpgAs a result of this course, what did you learn, what changes will you make, and how will you implement them?

Thank you! I hope you enjoyed this courseTn treepottedgrow.gif

Additional Resources

Digging Deeply: A gardening project with peas engages second and third-grade students in thinking, acting, and writing like scientists: Media:Dig_deep.pdf‎

Growing Art in School Gardens: Using the school garden as inspiration, supply cupboard, and exhibition space for students’ art Media:Art.pdf‎

Plant a Row for the Hungry is a program founded by the Garden Writers Foundation. For more information on how schools amd communities are involved, visit: http://www.gwaa.org


Cornell University. (2010). Seed to Salad. Retrieved from http://blogs.cornell.edu/garden/get-activities/signature-projects/seed-to-salad/.

Garden Writers Foundation (2010). Plant a Row for the Hungry. Retrieved from www.gwaa.org.

Inwood, H. (2007, Winter). Growing Art in School Gardens Using the school garden as inspiration, supply cupboard, and exhibition space for students’ art. Green Teacher 80, 39-42.

Krajcik, J., & Blumenfeld, P. (2006). Project-based learning. In K. Sawyer (Eds.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences. New York: Cambridge University Press

The National Gardening Association (2010). Teacher Resources. In “Bringing the Garden Indoors”. Retrieved from http://www.kidsgardening.org/teachers.asp

National Wildlife Foundation (2010). Schoolyard Habitats. Retrieved from http://www.nwf.org/Get-Outside/Outdoor-Activities/Garden-for-Wildlife/Schoolyard-Habitats.aspx

Owings, S. and Merino, B (2010, September). Digging Deeply: A gardening project with peas engages second and third-grade students in thinking, acting, and writing like scientists. NSTA Science & Children 48 (1), 32-37.

School Tube.com. (2010). Spoede Garden Harvestfest. Retrieved from http://www.schooltube.com/video/81c53be1a40c43819377/Spoede-Garden-Harvestfest

School Tube.com. (2010). Video Search. Retrieved from http://www.schooltube.com/videosearch?q=garden&search-submit=Search

Flower.gif Congratulations on completing the course! Flower.gif

Index Page:

Garden-Based Learning Across the Curriculum

photos used in this course are courtesy of Donna Alese Cooke and Cornell University Cooperative Extension.