Share it! Science : Gardening with Children: Science Lessons, Life Lessons

Gardening with Children: Science Lessons, Life Lessons

Let me let you in on a little secret (that is probably not that much of a secret to some Share it! Science News readers) gardening with children is magic. Particularly when gardening with little ones who are still learning the wonders of the world.

A school garden, planted by little hands!

The past two springs we have had the good fortune of giving away seed packets, generously donated by Renee's Garden Seeds, to Share it! Science News readers. Two of this year's winners recently touched base with me about their gardening experience. They both echoed similar sentiments: growing their seeds into plants was not without trials and tribulations, but there were many teachable moments and little rewards along the way.

Deb T. a preschool educator from Michigan shared:

Our garden was less than successful product wise.  We were fighting near drought conditions, chipmunks, a new flock of chickens who eat more of our green stuff than we anticipated, and we are now fighting squash bugs.  On the good side we were able to watch a praying mantis eat those bugs for an afternoon snack!  We were so appreciative of the gift of seeds.  We started some plants from seed that we would normally buy as plants.  And we are still anxiously awaiting some bell peppers from the plants we were able to save from the chipmunk.
Thank you for the gift:) -Deb T.

The peppers Deb mentions above, from Renee's Garden Seeds.

I can think of many times I had similar experiences in my school garden. When you plant a seed you must contend with many factors, like predators and weather, that are out of your control. I'm so glad that despite the challenge, Deb was able to find the teachable moments to share with her students. I love that they were able to observe the praying mantis in the food chain they created in the garden.

Science lesson? A plant is one part of a food chain. This food chain is part of an even larger food web.

Life lesson? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. There is always a silver lining!

An unexpected teachable moment- a praying mantis munches on the bugs that are munching on the squash plants!

Tina E. a Mom from Texas wrote: 

Hi Sarah,
My 5 year old son and I planted our seeds and watched them sprout but unfortunately I placed them in the Texas sun too early and they died. He was so sad but I still have a few more seeds that we will plant in early spring next year. The experience with him was awesome. Thank you for the seeds that brought us both experience and education that we will never forget.

We had a great time planting them and checking on them daily with a lot of enthusiasm, talking about them and watering/spritzing them. 

Sarah, I did not realize the harshness of the sun until I placed the sprouted plants outside to get a little sun, in about half-hour they were wilted and even the ones that were not fried by the heat of the sun eventually died within two days. This was also a great learning experience too. Failing is learning because now we know what not to do. 
We are looking forward to another year of growing our plants.
-Tina E.
Tina's son plants his Renee's Garden Seeds.

I love Tina's story of growing seeds with her son. Although they weren't as successful as they hoped, a new interest was sparked in a young child. Despite the fact the seedlings did not grow to maturity, her son is still anxious to try again next year. They learned what to do and what not to do through the experience.

Tina's son's seedlings.

I've certainly cooked seedlings, accidentally leaving them closed up in the cold frame on that first really warm sunny day of spring. Although it is disappointing, it only makes you want to try to grow them again!

Science lesson? A seed will germinate given soil, water, air and light.

Life lesson? If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!

In addition to my seed giveaway winners, I checked in with other colleagues who garden with kids.

Kassia, an Environmental Educator at IslandWood in Washington shared:

Hi Sarah!
I did quite a bit in the garden this summer with IslandWood summer camps. I taught three weeks of 4-5 year olds, and one week of 6-7 year olds. We mostly accessed science in the garden through the study of pollinators. One week, we focused on super powers of the natural world. The week began with an examination of flowers, and a discussion of their incredible abilities to make fruits and produce seeds. In IslandWood team building fashion, students then learned that the flower super powers were augmented by other natural superheroes: honey bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Students learned about the inner-workings of a hive, differences between moths and butterflies, and made feeders for hummingbirds. Curricula on hummingbirds is sorely lacking, and this was the toughest day to teach. I designed an easy to make hummingbird feeder, and had kids carry around guide books looking for hummingbirds in the garden--this ended up being the most popular day!

I love that this program used the idea of super powers to make learning magic for the campers. Seeing how flowers, and ultimately the food we eat, are dependent on pollinators is such an important lesson for kids.

Science lesson? The many parts of the garden ecosystem work in sync with one another. Each organism has a job and a special niche.

Life lesson? It takes many different types of organisms with different strengths to make ecosystems, and societies, run smoothly. We are deeply connected to the natural world. 

Christina from Little Sprouts Learning Garden in Oklahoma shared with our gardening with kids group:

This morning we ground the wheat the kids grew in the garden and made it into bread. It was so fun seeing them realize we could either eat the seeds or replant them. They learn so much from growing their own food!

Yum! Homemade bread! photo courtesy of Little Sprouts Learning

I think it is so awesome that these kiddos got to see this whole process from start to finish! So often in our society the middle-man has taken care of the jobs like harvesting and grinding the wheat to make our bread. What a gift to have this experience!

Science lesson? The "flowers" of grasses look different than other flowers. The top part of the wheat is the seed producing flower. 

Life lesson? Most of the time it is worth it to do something the "old-fashioned" way. 

Are you inspired to try to grow something with a child next spring? Follow my garden Pinterest board for some inspiration!


  1. This is so great. Thanks for sharing it and for including us. All these kids are learning so much!

    1. I was happy to. I'm always inspired by what you do with your program!!

  2. Sarah, I thoroughly enjoy this science blog, thank you for including us in the article.

  3. Sarah, I thoroughly enjoy this science blog, thank you for including us in the article.

    1. Tina, it was my pleasure. Thank you for reading my blog, and for sharing your experiences with your son. I'm glad we can all learn together!