Turning Your Classroom into a “Smart Garden”

by Rachel Stepp, M. Ed. 

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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

This popular nursery rhyme might be recited in your classroom all throughout the year, but it can also be your classroom’s theme. Of course, as a teacher, you want your classroom garden to be a smart garden! Transforming your class into a smart garden during the upcoming holiday break may be a fun “surprise” for your students when they return in January. Here’s how to plant your own smart garden:

Garden Decor 

First, you need to decorate your classroom with a garden theme: flowers, grass, garden bugs, and anything else to bring your garden to life. The School Box has a cute flower garden bulletin board set that could get you started, but don’t feel limited to using these critters only on a bulletin board. Post them all around the room! A string of gazebo lights feels cozy, too.

Next, organize your classroom’s zones with the garden theme in mind. For example, your library and reading center can be made cozy with green pillows, a stuffed hungry caterpillar, and a large fabric leaf draped over the area. Leaves, such as this one found at IKEA, are easy to install and relatively cheap.

You might want to call your reading area, “the backyard.” The whiteboards could then be labeled “the front yard” and a grassy border, like this one, shown left, from The School Box, could be layered on the lower wall. Label every area of your classroom with a different outside place: closet = “garden shed,” your desk = “Master Gardener,” art station = “budding artists,” etc. You can then direct your students to “go to the backyard for reading time.”

Student Groups

After your room is set up, label your desks/tables as well. I like the idea of naming table groups because it allows you to speak to a group of children at once without having to name all of the students. You can name your table groups with different garden bugs such as ladybugs, butterflies, and bumble bees, or with different types of gardens, like flower garden, vegetable garden, rock garden or fruit orchard. You can use these labels when calling small groups, instructing students to line up, and designating responsibilities in the classroom.

A Garden-y Greeting

On the first day back to school, welcome your students into the classroom with galoshes on your feet, a watering can in your hand, and live plantsin your classroom. This will get your students excited about your smart garden…and about coming back to learn and “grow.” As the year continues, create a bulletin board area (like the one pictured from ProTeacher.net) to show progress and student learning. Add flowers and other aspects of a garden to your bulletin board to show growth of academic and behavioral success in your classroom. Your students will enjoy seeing what they have learned, and you will enjoy the commonality and unity in your classroom. So start watering your smart garden…and watch it grow!

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