Lively Lessons: Community Garden STEM Challenge

Join Discovery Education in the month of May as we celebrate STEM Learning: the powerful critical thinking and exploration practice connected by a common or transdisciplinary theme.

Utilizing a STEM mindset in the classroom, students ask deep, real-world questions, collaborate with their peers, arrive at meaningful conclusions, and explore STEM careers.


This STEM Challenge was created collaboratively by a team of Discovery Educator Network Leadership Council members, including Susan Bowdoin, Sonja Fehlmann, Stephanie Harper, Dacia Jones, Cathy Maher, and Conni Mulligan.

Zucchini_Plants_circleChallenge: Design a garden for your community that will be home to a variety of fruits and vegetables.

First, you need to identify an underused or unoccupied piece of public or private land that could be home to the garden. Then, research plants that would flourish in your particular climate and ecosystem. Map out a plan for the garden, including planting patterns, dimensions, and spacing that will best suit your choices. After you have designed your garden, consider opportunities to share your food harvest with the community.

Extension: You have been asked to recreate your garden in a different ecosystem. Which plants can stay? Why? Which ones will have to be replaced? Why?

Blueberry_Plant_circleExplore: gardening, agriculture, and ecosystems through these supporting resources and learning strategies.

Community Gardens

Grades 6-12

Are all gardens the same? How do geography, weather, population and other factors affect gardens? Use SOS: Get VENN-y With It and compare the garden in the video to a garden that you will plan for your specific ecosystem.

Fruits_and_vegetables_circleDr. Dad’s PH3: Soil and Agriculture

Grades 3-5

What do you need to know in order to successfully grow a garden? Use SOS: 25 Things You Didn’t Know as you learn about all of the different things that go into gardening and farming so you are ready to begin planning your own ecosystem-specific garden.

Farm_products_circleHydroponics Lettuce

Grades 3-8

Do you need soil to grow plants? There are ways scientists have developed that use alternative methods to growing plants. Gather and share facts about Hydroponics by using SOS: Snowball Fight.

Take a Virtual Field Trip :

Fruit_and_Vegetable_Stand_circleLiterature Connection: Read one of these books and use the related strategy to learn more about gardening.

  • The Gardener (1997) by Sarah Stewart: After reading the book, write down all of the different types of plants that Lydia Grace grows on sticky notes, then organize the plants into different groupings and categories.
  • City Green (1994) book and video by DyAnne DiSalva-Ryan: Generate a list of the different tasks that had to go into turning an empty lot into a community garden. Create a sequence of these steps from from first to last.
  • How Does My Garden Grow? (2011) by DK Publishing: Use this book as a reference as you learn about how to plan a garden.

Terrarium_circleCreate: Share your project ideas.

  • Hands-on Technology
    • Design a virtual garden using Google Sketchup
    • Use this seed packet template to create your own seed packet, making sure to include all specs as seen on traditional seed packets
    • Create a stop-motion video recording the growth of a plant by taking daily pictures of a growing plant. Try using a bean in a plastic baggie to document the growth of a seedling.
  • Hands-on Art
    • Build a 3D model of your garden plan
    • Design and build a terrarium

Extend: Explore careers related to gardening, design, and agriculture.

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