Social Studies Activities Having To Do With Gardening & Plants

Use gardening and plants to teach social studies lessons.

Class gardens are hands-on resources that can be used as a teaching tool. Use plants and gardening to foster learning and to connect students with social studies units through authentic life experience. According to the American Society for Nutrition, the “use of gardens to promote a deeper understanding of where our food comes from, as well as a hands-on lab for science, math and social learning is no longer a radical idea.” Teaching using gardens gives students the opportunity to understand people and cultures by looking at what food they grow and how they grow it.

Day on the Farm

Students discuss the differences between businesspeople and farmers in this activity. Because many urban students are unaware of the important role farmers play in society, this lesson teaches students about what it means to grow food. Use this lesson for elementary students. Begin the lesson by reading aloud the book, “Down on the Funny Farm.” Discuss the book with your class, questioning them on what events took place and what they think a farmer’s job is. Explain to them that in addition to taking care of farm animals, many farmers grow the plants that people eat. Make a two-column chart with one side for the things that businesspeople do at their jobs and the other side dedicated to what farmers do at theirs, and have the class provide the tasks for each job description. After the class comes up with a detailed list in both columns, let them know that each of them is going to grow a plant just like a farmer. Each student plants a bean seed in a dirt-filled paper cup and documents its growth for two weeks.

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Local Agricultural Commodities

Plant foods in a class garden that are important commodities in your area to teach the importance of agriculture to the local economy. Adapt this activity for most grades by requiring grade-appropriate responses. Most areas of the country have at least one local agricultural commodity, so this activity works for most teachers. While teaching a social studies unit about your state, grow one of its leading agricultural commodities in your class garden. Ask students to document the process of growing the plants by keeping a farmer’s journal. Students write daily entries as if they are a local farmer, and their “crop” determines how much money they will earn that year.

Lettuce Be Different

Grow as many different types of lettuce as possible in your class garden over the summer. When students arrive on the first day of school, explain that they will be harvesting the lettuce after lunch to make a big class salad. After harvesting, question your students on what they notice about the lettuce. Ask them to describe the different types of leaves they see and to count the number of different varieties of lettuce that they can distinguish. Explain that just like people all over the world, lettuce comes in a huge assortment of colors, shapes and tastes. If desired, eat the salad together as a class. Use this project to teach cultural awareness and also to promote classroom community. Use it with any grade level.