“Granny’s garden brought us together & gave us all a green thumb.” Nicole, 3rd grade

Children love discovering things in the gardens.  Whether it’s a plant, a fungus, or a garden animal, children are thrilled to find the unexpected.  Be on the lookout for such treasures in your garden. They offer great teaching moments.  Stop when you can to briefly take a look before going back to your planned activity.

What might be found?

Usually, animals in the garden attract the most attention.  Get to know the names of common butterflies so you can discuss their adaptations and behaviors with students.  A cabbage white butterfly fluttering around food beds might be looking for a host plant instead of a nectar plant.  What kinds of insects and other invertebrates do you notice in early spring versus later in the growing season?  Animal sizes, forms, and behaviors all give clues to life cycles.

In the food beds, you might find a carrot or two remaining from last year’s harvest.  Watch how the plant develops in its second and final growing season.  Does it look the same or different from newly planted carrots?  Watch for the lacy flowers that resemble Queen Anne’s Lace from which they descend.

In the spring, if you find potatoes left over from last year that are firm and unscathed, replant them.  They will sprout new leaves for late summer harvesting, or if you have a lot, harvest in spring for a tasty treat of “new potato” sized tubers.

Many times, the weather conditions in spring are perfect for the development of fungus.  Take a little time to show how it grows from the thready hyphae that are decomposing a wood chip and providing nourishment to the fungus to the cap that will release spores to grow new fungi.


If you have time for some weeding, show students one kind of weed and have them pull only that weed until it is all gone.  Talk about the traits of the weed, so students understand how weed adaptations help the weed to survive.  If the garden has been watered recently, they should be able to remove most weeds by firmly grabbing the base of the stem at soil level and pulling.   If it is too dry to easily pull the weeds, it is not a good day for weeding.

Weeding the garden teaches students to identify weeds and to distinguish them from garden plants.  Teach students the importance of weed removal, which…

  • Reduces competition with garden plants for resources like water and sunlight
  • Prevents the proliferation of more weeds
  • Improves the garden’s appearance.