One of my favourite, low prep ways to enhance and develop garden vocabulary in the outdoor classroom is to prepare garden vocabulary vases that serve as visual aids for a scavenger hunt. Inspired by the entry display into Van Dusen Gardens, a school garden vocabulary vase offers a visual and sensorial entry to knowing the garden for students of all abilities, while enhancing both children’s and visiting adults’ experience of connection to the school garden.
Make A School Garden Vocabulary Vase
Vocabulary vases can be free standing, or attached to a fence post. I found these vases at a dollar store and attached them with a simple cleat from the hardware store.
I used a chalk marker on a chalkboard clip to identify the commonly used name of the plant I want children to recognize. I liked the wide mouth on these vases, but they were problematic in the winter when they filled with water and froze.
The next experiment with fence post vocabulary vases included these plastic test-tube style prototypes. (Clink link to purchase on Amazon) The words were printed onto the fence post directly and were easily hosed off when the contents changed.
Children are asked to sketch, paint or illustrate the plant sample, copy the spelling of the word, and then head out into the garden classroom to locate the plant in its original location. Our garden beds are numbered so children will add the garden bed where they found the corresponding crop or plant to complete the task.
Related post: Storytelling in Nature
Our gardens are diverse in both native and non-native species of food crops and ornamental pollinator friendly plantings. Teaching children the names of these plants, as well as the less desirable weeds that crop up, gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility for the garden. Once children can begin to name the species of plants in their garden, they feel more connected to the place and are more likely to care for and protect the garden.
If you’d like more ideas on how to support literacy in your garden classroom, book a professional learning session for your school. Contact me here for rates and availability.
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