Science is the perfect subject for taking learning outdoors. Use the world around you to help students explore concepts with a hands-on approach. Whether the garden is just starting or already well established, the combination of soil, plants, animals, and rocks is a useful resource for various gardening activities. Have students grab a notebook and pencil, and they'll be on their way to becoming budding biologists.
1. Soil Sort
A soil sort is a great garden activity when students are learning about different types of soil. Primary students typically learn the difference between humus soil, sandy soil, and clay. Students can dig into the soil and determine the properties of the soil to figure out which type it is. How much water does each hold? Which color best describes each soil?
The activity can drive a discussion about which plants grow best in which type of soil and why. Students can experiment with hypotheses by planting the same seeds in different soils and tracking the growth.
You can include the use of science tools like measuring cups and water meters to determine how much water each type of soil holds and for how long. In addition, students can study more about the soil found in your geographic region and connect this to the types of plants that are native to your region.
For a long-term investigation, track the growth of plants over a few months to experiment with how sunlight, temperature, water, and soil type all factor into the plants' well-being.
2. Life Cycles Exploration
The garden is teeming with different types of life forms. Students can learn a lot about the life cycle of plants and animals while exploring the garden. Invite students to plant seeds and watch them go through the stages of seed, seedling, sprout, and mature plant.
Students can use their observation skills to identify parts of plants including stems, flowers, roots, and leaves. Look for caterpillars or purchase your own so students can watch the stages of butterfly transformation. Look for insects scurrying around to create a diagram of an insect life cycle-egg, larva, pupa, adult. Students can search for insect eggs or homes and spend time each day observing changes over time.
Invite students to take their science notebooks with them so they can track observations in real-time or have them practice jotting down questions.
3. Nature Charting
Budding scientists can use the garden to practice skills in the nature of science. Students can explore concepts of making hypotheses and tracking data. Which types of bugs most often live under rocks? Track observations for different types of rocks found in the garden. Does our garden have more metamorphic or igneous rocks? Students can create a bar graph or tally chart to track this information. Which types of insects are most common in a garden. Students can explore various topics using chart data to turn their questions into theories. ‘
Prompt discussion about what students hypothesize before going outdoors, track the data while outdoors and then reflect on the data once you are back inside. Students can brainstorm questions and hypotheses related to any science topic they’re learning about. How much rain does our garden get on average? What is the best temperature for plant growth? Use science tools like rulers, rain gauges, and thermometers to extend the learning.