Grow Some Good Garden Curriculum

As we began our journey into school gardens nearly 10 years ago, one of the first things we considered was having a school garden curriculum.  At that time, the thought of figuring it out was overwhelming. Thank goodness we didn’t let that slow us down! Over the years we explored ways for students to learn and have fun, we consulted with teachers, and explored many resources.  We ran into both benefits and challenges based on our Hawai’i  location, where we can grow throughout the school year. Since 2009, we have evolved from a handful of consistent lessons  to the “212-page Garden Bible,” compiled in 2017.  That year it was critical for us to have this information as we brought on four (out of five) new garden coordinators to serve our schools.

However, two things were clearly missing:

  1. A road map through the grade levels to ensure students were expanding their learning each year.
  2. Mapping to key curriculum standards which is something all the principals care about. Also grade-level leaders find it easier to work with the garden coordinator with this mapping.

We set to work creating a Curriculum Grade Level Plan.

About the Curriculum Grade Level Plan

The table below summarizes our Grade Level Plan. Many thanks to our garden coordinators Jadda Miller and Alexis Kageyama who pulled this together. While we still consider many detailed plans to be ‘draft’ since they havenʻt been ‘garden tested, student approved’, they are an amazing and extensive resource compilation.  We were definitely not creating lessons from scratch.  Activities reference links to great lessons from all over! A special appreciation goes out to the Kohala Center with their Ku ʻAina Pa Hawai‘i School Garden Curriculum Map.  We also loved the content and structure of the ʻAina In the Schools curriculum from Kokua Foundation. Our curriculum summarizes about 16 lessons for each grade level K-5. It is not intended to be used in sequence but to be adapted to map to the learning happening in the classrooms.

People often ask “Why 16 lessons?”   After looking at our schools with participation at all grade levels, we found that it is common for each student to be in the garden about 16 times a year.  No school or schedule is typical. Some schools have weekly lessons but are on semester or quarter schedule.  Some are on a bi-weekly rotation.  The length of garden classes range from 25 to 50 minutes. We did our best to provide a framework that supports everyone while being flexible to contract or expand. As you see, we love to incorporate harvest recipes, art projects and other diverse activities whenever we can. There are clear themes that are enhanced across each grade level.  At every level we reinforce messages about caring for the ‘aina, nutrition and sustainability.

Each of these lessons has a Short Version that is preferred by experienced garden coordinators who have taught the lesson before and want a quick refresher.  The Long Version is a play-by-play on how to move through or plan the lesson.  As you see, we have many great links!  Below we have examples to demonstrate the difference.

Example Short Lesson

3rd grade decomposers short

Example Part of Full Lesson

Long version sample

We have protected the details of the curriculum because we want to make sure that people accessing it have the background, training, and skills to teach it well. It was made available at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year to Grow Some Good Garden Coordinators and Maui School Garden Network Coordinators who attended our training. We have a SLACK group set up for coordinators to evaluate and provide feedback on the curriculum.  Teachers and coordinators are welcome to ask for details.

We also want to maintain a list of people accessing this information, so we can inform them as the curriculum evolves.