Getting Your Hands Dirty in a Gardening Unit Study

Spring has arrived in Texas, and we are all itching to be outside 90% of our day. There is a whole classroom outdoors, so we're going to take advantage of it. I recently received some exciting books from Candlewick Press that will provide the perfect foundation for a Gardening Unit Study.

While we don't use unit studies all year long, I love to insert them into our curriculum when we're needing a little lift from the regular routine. Spring is one of those difficult times for me to be diligent and finish strong. Hands-on learning is a powerful way to inspire students, and gardening provides a rich resource for inspirational learning.

Gardening Unit Study

I received free books from Candlewick Press to curate my unit study and was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own. See my full disclosure policy for more details. 

Classroom Gardening

It's Our Garden by George Ancona is the first book on our list. A gardening enthusiast inspires her school and surrounding community to come together and garden. All hands are put to work, and their harvest in hard work and fellowship is inspiring.

Gardening Unit Study

Classroom Garden Inspiration:

  • Dream time: Get seed catalogs and have your kids cut out what they'd like to plant. Check the details about how big each plant will grow and plan out your garden space. We've had some fun with square-foot gardening since we don't live out in the country. It's a great way to garden in small spaces.
  • Seed Starters: It is amazing to see a seed sprout and grow into a fruit bearing plant. I bought some veggies in pots for us to tend while we wait for the seeds to mature, but we are also going to get some seeds started inside, transplant them outside and marvel as we observe their progression.
  • Garden Chores: Gardening is hard work. I love giving my kids breaks outside, but it is even better when I can give them outside jobs to do. When they have adult work, they rise to the occasion. If we're going to invest the time and money in cultivating these plants, we need to make sure that we care for our investment.
  • Veggie Pizza: It's amazing how much better vegetables taste when they're grown in your own garden. As we harvest from our garden, we can enjoy the fruits of our labor with a tasty treat.
  • Leaf Prints: Gardening inspires art. Using a leaf covered in paint, you can make some beautiful leaf print art.

Gardening With Bugs

The next three books on our list work together to educate my young gardeners on which bugs are a garden necessity and which ones are pests.

Yucky Worms by Vivian French introduces those hard working gardeners behind the scenes: worms. My son used to think worms were so gross, but when he started a compost pile, he found out how valuable their underground farming can be.

Gardening Unit Study

Get hands on with worms in your garden:

  • Calling All Worms: In the book, the young boy's grandma shows him how to find worms. They water the soil and then watch and wait. This is such a simple discovery science activity.
  • Worm Investigation: When you find a worm, rinse it off, then set it out on a piece of paper to observe. They are such valuable gardening partners, you don't want to cut them up!
  • Watch and Learn: I love how many resources are available on YouTube. Here are some great options for learning more about worms.


Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber is an excellent resource for teaching kids about the importance of pollinators for gardening.

Gardening Pollinators

Bee inspired by these extension activities:

  • Create A Bee Hotel: I never knew that mason bees don't sting! You can attract them to your garden with one of these cool woodworking projects:
  • Expand Your Pollinator Knowledge: Have your students research other pollinators. Find ways to encourage and invite as many pollinators to your garden.
  • Enjoy Bee Inspired Music: I love Rachmaninov's Flight of the Bumblebee. This version is pretty amazing to watch:

  • Watch and Learn: There are also many resources are available on YouTube for learning more about bees.


Expand your creepy-crawly horizons with Bugs: A Stunning Pop-Up Look at Insects, Spiders, and Other Creepy-Crawlies by George McGavin. This is a fascinating and inspiring book that draws readers into the world of bugs.

Gardening with Bugs

Connect With The Bugs in Your Life

  • Go On A Bug Scavenger Hunt: Take a nature hike through a local park and see how many bugs you can find. Photograph them, and then try to identify all of the varieties you found when you get home.
  • Raise Butterflies: There is nothing more amazing than watching caterpillars transform into butterflies. You can get a butterfly garden kit to inspire your young gardeners.
  • Draw a Bug: The earliest scientists knew the value of observation that came from drawing and labeling their object of study. Nature journals are a great place to record drawings of your studies.

The History of Gardening

Inspired by Rose's Garden by Peter H. Reynolds, we will take a tour of the history of gardening as we stand on the shoulders of the gardening giants that have gone before us. In teaching my kids to appreciate history, I'm also providing a road map for them to build off of the wisdom of the successes and failures of gardeners of the past.

Gardening Unit Study

  • Inspired by Rose Kennedy: Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway is a modern garden that was inspired by the Rose Kennedy's love of gardens and connecting a community. Check out the project here:

  • Create an Agricultural Timeline: This condensed timeline of American Agriculture is so informative and fascinating to study. Research plants native to the USA and which ones were brought to the New World.
  • Visit a Local Garden: A great way to be inspired in your own gardening is to visit a nearby botanical garden. Admire the artistry and skill required to manage and maintain a beautiful garden of that magnitude.
  • The Great GMO Debate: Your older students can begin to develop an opinion on Genetically Modified Organisms. There are many strong opinions out there, so help your student navigate the propaganda and start to formulate their own opinion based on their research.

Express Yourself With Gardening

Our last book selection is Stories From Bug Garden by Lisa Moser. This book of zany bug stores is the perfect end to our gardening unit study because it brings together art and poetry which express the understanding of a subject matter. I'm in love with the illustrations and zany stories in this book. I think it's my favorite on in our study.

Gardening Unit Study

Ideas For Expressing A Love of Gardening

  • Thumbprint Art: This book is filled with inspiring art that can be recreated with a thumbprint and some fun squiggles. Take the ideas from illustrator Gwen Millward and doodle your own garden masterpieces.
  • Garden Tea Time Poetry: Have students write their own garden poems to share at a special tea party. If they're not poets, have them bring a garden poem they discover on their own to share at the tea. Make your time special, enchanting, and magical.
  • Garden Short Stories: Inspired by the silly tales in the book, have your students write their own bug life short stories. Illustrate and share your stories together in the great outdoors.

More Inspiration from Candlewick Press (and a Giveaway)

Receive 25% off with promo code CANDLEWICK at checkout to get great discounts on your favorite books. There is so much inspiration from Candlewick Press books for my gardening unit study, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Their books are filled with inspiration for a variety of subjects. Check out some of these wonderful collections:

You can also enter the giveaway below to be one of 50 winners who will receive a boxed set of Judy Moody paperbacks books 1-8! I always love a good book giveaway. 

Sign up for the Candlewick Press Newsletter or follow them on social media for continued inspiration. I specifically love their Pinterest boards for book inspiration.

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  1. Lana @ on March 14, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    I love gardening in Texas! So much fun to do with littles!

    • Betsy on March 16, 2017 at 10:08 am

      Yes it is! What are you planting?

  2. Amy on March 15, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Oh my stars! These books are just lovely! Thank you for sharing such wonderful ideas on how to use:)

    • Betsy on March 16, 2017 at 10:07 am

      Thanks Amy! I love the books. I pretty much love anything from Candlewick Press!

  3. Ann @SumoGardener on March 20, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks Betsy. I love gardening and these books are so funny. I think my daughter will enjoy gardening after reading them.


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