If you give a child a choice between sitting at a desk or completing a lesson through hands-on learning in your garden, the choice will generally be to get outdoors. In this article, we will discuss how you can set up a learning garden to teach your child math and science-related concepts.
Parents and teachers can make math and science-related activities fun for kids (and easy for adults) by using gardens to provide them with unique opportunities to learn STEAM-related concepts in a natural environment. You can use your learning garden to cover concepts such as problem-solving, measuring, geometry, data gathering, counting, observing and many more important aspects of science and math-related subjects. Teaching these concepts with gardening gives kids hands-on interactions with the theories and provides them with a fun experience that they will actually remember.
Using a garden to teach these important concepts also helps children learn important gardening techniques and helps them appreciate the beauty of life and nature whilst providing them with a healthy, outdoor learning environment.
Setting up a learning garden
The first decision will be to choose where you will set up your garden and which plants you would like to grow – do you want a vegetable patch or a flower garden? Find a designated garden space and start setting up your very own learning garden. Alternatively, you can use what you already have and get the learning started!
When setting up your learning garden you can ask your child questions like, what shape will be best for the garden – square, rectangular or triangular? Allow your child to investigate how much space the plants they have chosen will need, then plan the garden accordingly. Do you need to set up a footpath to allow for watering and weeding or is the garden small enough to be managed from the outer perimeter? What is a perimeter?
STEM activities in the garden
There are many experiments and learning concepts that your child can do to encourage learning STEM-related concepts in your learning garden. For example, when setting up the garden you may need to determine how much soil you will need. To do this you could ask your child to measure the perimeter of the garden and calculate the square meterage so that you can work out how much soil the garden will require.
You can use your learning garden to build self-confidence by practising basic mathematical formulas like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. For example, if you want to have 10 tomato plants and you need to plant 3 seeds in each hole, how many seeds will you need? If each tomato plant yields about 30 tomatoes, how many plants do you need to yield 600 tomatoes? If the lettuce bed is 4 meters long and 2 meters wide and the seeds need to be 19 centimetres apart, how many plants will you be able to plant?
Once you get into the habit of posing questions like this, you will find the learning possibilities are endless!
Teaching data collection and observation
A learning garden is a great way to teach children valuable observation and data collection practices. Children can note and record the date of germination of each plant and record the information for comparison at a later stage. They can collect data concerning the number of weeds removed and decide which circumstances caused more weeds. Are there more weeds after rain?
Further data collection could involve the rate of growth, yield (which plants gave the biggest crop), and the lifecycle of the plants. This data can be applied to various mathematical and science-related concepts.
Encourage your child to analyse the data they collect and use the information to improve the gardening processes to yield better results. Children can be encouraged to turn the data they have collected into graphs and presentations so they can make concise conclusions and present feedback on what they have observed.
Understanding weather patterns and seasons
Children can gain a greater understanding of the different seasons of the year and weather patterns by observing their gardens. Using a calendar and the seeds you are going to plant, sit with your child and discuss the information on the packets. Determine when you can plant the seeds, then determine when you will be able to harvest them by counting on the calendar. This is a great time to talk about the different seasons and how different weather conditions will impact the garden.
Art and creative garden activities
A learning garden doesn’t have to be all numbers and formulas. Use your garden to promote creativity and boost your child's imagination with art-related craft activities. A fun outdoor activity for kids of all ages is rock painting. Get your child to decorate their garden or label their plants with painted rocks. Or ask your child to draw a picture of their dream garden.
Make learning fun
By encouraging and teaching your child to learn through doing you will help build their self-confidence and encourage them to develop an inquiring mind by observing the world around them. A learning garden is a healthy way to teach STEAM-related concepts whilst making the learning experience more meaningful and promoting increased knowledge retention.
A learning garden can also teach children the importance of nature in our daily lives and will better prepare them for their future in understanding the relationship between plants and food.