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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

How Horticulture Goes Green in the Classroom
Sharon Pettey-Taylor

With the excitement stirring across America by First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House organic garden, an excellent opportunity is presented to educate our primary students about plant and vegetable life and the effort it takes to maintain a healthy, “green” environment.

Creating mini-indoor gardens is one way to jump start green, environmentally-conscious thinking in the classroom. Students can be encouraged to conceptualize a program of maintenance for specific needs in cultivating their chosen plants or vegetables. Particularly, in urban settings, when it is not always possible to create a garden outside, we now have the opportunity to re-design inside the classroom.

Modeling as facilitators, our role is to oversee all of the horticultural experiments and class discussions (modified for our primary-level environmentalists). All students should be encouraged to fully participate in the various stages of plant growth and development;  keeping records of all content-area vocabulary and procedures. Our guided practice in this area will be a vital part to their enthusiasm in “going green.”

In addition, we will again ask ourselves–How do we:

  • support and monitor student collaboration during learning activities?
  • help students make decisions about managing time and materials during learning activities?  (PTS)

The following suggested, instructional unit-outline may be helpful in support of this hands-on curriculum, which focuses on a seed and the product of that seed--a maturing, flowering plant. It is anticipated that students will have a better understanding and deeper appreciation for the art and science of horticulture.

Plants are major contributors to the environment and crucial to human existence. Working with and caring for plants helps to develop attitudes of respect and sensitivity towards the environment and an aesthetic appreciation for  the art and science of horticulture.

Essential Question
How can horticulture support “going green” concepts in the classroom?

Instructional Objectives
Students will be able to:

  • Observe, nurture, and grow a plant from its  original dormant state to maturity;
  • Study plant form and practice the care of plants within a given environment;
  • Form learning groups to have the opportunity to collaborate and work cooperatively together; and
  • Increase awareness of the importance of plants in the ecosystem.

Topic 1: Parts of a seed plant

  • Discuss parts of the seed plant and their function--examine the embryo within a seed and participate in an experiment to test for germination.
  • Examine the parts of a flower and determine their function.
  • Determine the process of pollination and participate in an experiment of hand pollination, monitor the progress to determine if fertilization takes place.
  • Examine the fertile parts of the plant to determine the outcome of fertilization.

Topic 2: Plant propagation

  • Examine the ways plants can be grown from existing ones and perform experiments to test methods of vegetative reproduction.
  • Extract seeds from fruit and vegetables and prepare them for propagation--conduct an experiment to determine if germination takes place.
  • Propagate new plants from stem cuttings.
  • Propagate new plants from leaf cuttings.
  • Propagate new plants from runners.     

Topic 3: Proper care of plants 

  • Design an experiment to test how plants need sunlight.
  • Design an experiment to test how  plants need water.
  • Learn  potting procedures--their importance as the plants grow.
  • Examine garden soil--participate in an activity to compare the water holding capacity of soil types.
  • Design an experiment to determine plants’ need for nutrition.

Topic 4: How plants are essential to all living things

  • Overview how humans and animals need plants for survival.
  • Discuss plant uses – food, clothing, shelter, paper, fuel and medicine.
  • Discuss environmental factors affected by plant life--air and water quality, climate, fish and wildlife habitat and protection from erosion.
  • Research how green concepts protect plant life.

Topic 5: How green horticulture benefits the quality of life   

  • Discuss how plants add privacy, peace and tranquility to living spaces.
  • Discuss how plants can  reduce stress and tension.
  • Discuss how trees reduce pollution in the ecosystem.

Other follow-up activities could include:

  • Students visiting nearby Botanical Gardens with their families or as a planned class trip.
  • Inviting students to bring in any books or pictures depicting plant life that can contribute to their horticulture investigations in the classroom.
  • Visiting the library.
  • In-class, independent posters or activity sheets could also be frequently utilized, accompanied by shareouts and student presentations.

All of their hard work will be evidenced by the beauty and variety of their miniature, indoor gardens and the new knowledge gained about plant life and its importance to all living things.

Feel free to volounteer your comments on “how your garden grows.”


  1. Standard for Understanding and Organizing Subject Matter for Student Learning.
    The Professional Teaching Standards. New Teacher Center at The University of California, Santa Cruz, 2004.

  2. Google:
    • Horticulture in the Classroom
    • Horticulture Goes Green
    • How Plants Are Essential to Human Life


    Do you have a comment, question, or suggestion about this article? E-mail Sharon.


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