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10 Tips for Creating an Amazing Classroom Garden

Bringing nature and the outdoors into your classroom can be a great educational adventure for you and your students. Not only are the gorgeous to look at, but there are countless benefits to having plants, vegetables or herbs growing in your classroom. It does require a little pre-planning but I assure you that every student will love getting their thumbs green in helping you with the upkeep of the indoor garden and learning all about plants!

Why Have a Classroom Garden?

Classroom gardens are more than just science lessons about the life cycles of plants. A classroom garden will give your students the opportunity to care for another living thing while also learning a wealth of information. In fact, according to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, growing a garden in your classroom will teach your students about nutrition, health, and wellness in a hands-on, experimental way. Students who have a connection with their food are more likely to eat it and enjoy it. Children who grow their own food also form an emotional connection with nutritious food because they do the hard work of nurturing it into an edible plant. Even growing herbs, flowers, or houseplants can be a satisfying and educational way to get your students more connected to nature.

For teachers also looking to improve their classroom environment and boost their students’ wellbeing—and even their own—there is a simple yet powerful aid: plants. Research has shown that having plants in your classroom can also;

  • Improve productivity

  • Reduce stress (for both you and the children!)

  • Improve the air quality

  • Improve health outcomes

  • Improve emotional health

10 Tips for Creating a Classroom Garden

Seeds in Cups

This is probably one we have all done or taught to illustrate the lifecycle of plants in science lessons and it is one that is great fun but does require a bit of patience! One of the simplest ways to create a classroom garden is to plant seeds in cups. Quick-growing seeds, such as beans, work best for this type of garden. Fill small plastic or compostable cups about ¾ full of potting soil. Have your students press a seed into the soil and gently cover it. Your students will need to water the seeds and place them in a warm, sunny place. After a few days, they will begin to see their

plants sprout.

Test Tube Garden

If using soil is a bit too messy or tricky for your classroom, try using a test tube garden instead. A test tube garden allows students to see the roots of their plant growing. Provide each student with a plant that has roots already starting to grow. You can either gently pull up already growing plants or start new plants from the shoots of house plants you already have. Once the roots begin to grow, have each student place the plant gently in a test tube filled with water. Over the next several days, your students will be able to observe the roots of their plant getting longer. This is also a great experiment to do to incorporate into maths lessons by measuring how long the roots grow, or you could mix up the variables for science lessons and see how the roots grow when the test tubes are placed in different locations around the classroom or school.

Grow Avocado Shoots

The pit of an avocado is the seed, and your students can learn about plant growth by creating an avocado pit garden. Show your students how to poke three or four toothpicks into the avocado. Have your students fill cups or jars with water and set their avocado pit over the surface of the water so the bottom one inch or so is submerged. The bottom of the seed is the flat part of the pit. Set the jars in a warm spot and keep the water level covering the bottom inch. Students will see roots begin to grow in less than a week.

Be sure to change the water every week to prevent the avocado pits from smelling!

Food Scraps Garden

Teach about the importance of reducing food waste and how vegetables can re-grow by starting your own food scraps garden. This could be a year or even whole-school based project as part of a larger eco friendly initiative.

There are many vegetables that can regrow from scraps rather than having to start with a seed. These are easy gardens to grow and maintain in the classroom. Root crops are particularly easy to sprout. Simply cut the tops of several root vegetables, such as beets, celery, and carrots, along with about two inches of the root. Place the beheaded vegetable in a shallow container filled with pebbles and water. After a couple days, the heads will begin to sprout new growth. Your students can transfer these to potting soil and watch them grow into new vegetables.

You can also do a similar thing with spring onions where you cut off the roots, place them in a jar of water and watch as the onion regrows - and it can get very long!

Succulent Garden

Succulents are a great way to introduce even the youngest students to the magic of gardening in the classroom. Not only are succulents hardy, but they also don’t require a ton of upkeep, making them perfect for your busy students.

Provide each of your students with a pot and have them put a thin layer of gravel on the bottom. Next, they will fill the pot about halfway with potting soil. Show your students how to gently set a young succulent plant on the soil. Then have them fill in the pot with potting soil to completely cover the roots of the plant. Place the pots in a sunny spot in your classroom and remind your students to water them every couple of weeks.

Herb Garden

Growing herbs is easy and useful, doubling as lessons in nutrition and cooking. Provide your student with small pots. They can even decorate the pots for an art extension. Great herbs to start with include basil, mint, dill, oregano, chives, thyme, parsley, and coriander.

Have the students fill the pots almost to the top with potting soil. Show your students how to sprinkle the seeds on top of the potting soil and water them gently so the seeds mingle with the soil. The seeds will begin to sprout within a few days. As the herbs grow, students can harvest them and incorporate them into classroom cooking lessons or take them home to sample with their families.

Food Waste Garden Challenge

Turn what your students would normally view as trash into a classroom garden. Challenge your students to save the seeds from food scraps they would normally throw away, such as seeds from apples, oranges, pea pods, pumpkins, tomatoes, kiwis, corn, and watermelon slices. Provide the students with pots and potting soil and let them experiment with which seeds will grow in the classroom and which ones will not.

You can even keep a visual chart to see who's scraps are growing the fastest or the longest and you could ask your students to see if they can spot any patterns or trends in what grows or what doesn't.

Bulb Garden

Bulbs are different than seeds and offer an often-overlooked way to teach children about growing food and flowers. Show your students different kinds of bulbs, such as onion and tulips. They can make comparisons between types of bulbs, as well as compare them to seeds.

Have the students plant several bulbs right side up and several bulbs upside down. Students can make predictions about which bulbs they think will grow better and faster. Once they start growing, your students will learn that bulbs planted right side up don’t need to use as much energy to sprout and, therefore, grow better and faster. Once the bulbs sprout, ask your students to plant them somewhere outside and continue nurturing them, as it generally takes longer for bulbs to produce food or flowers.

Outdoor Garden

If your school has the space, setting aside a small plot of land to serve as an outdoor classroom is a great way for students to learn gardening skills up close. Your students will also be able to grow things that aren’t as easy to grow in a small space like a classroom. Perhaps your students would enjoy planting pumpkins and nurturing the plants until harvest time. Then they can have the fun of picking and carving their pumpkins! Maybe your students would like to grow an assortment of greens and then enjoy salads for lunch one day. As your students plant, water, pull weeds, and care for their plants, they will learn patience, hard work, and the reward of delicious food!

Garden in a Bag

All it takes to grow a quick garden in limited classroom space is a clear plastic food storage bag, a wet paper towel, and a bean seed. Students will get to see the seed coat open, the sprout emerges, and the root begin to grow. Instruct your students to put a wet, but not soggy or dripping, paper towel in the plastic bag. This will act in place of soil. Then students will add two or three large bean seeds, such as lima or pinto beans. Tape the bags in a sunny window and they will begin to sprout in a matter of days. To help prevent mould from growing on the paper towels, leave the bags unsealed.

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