Thematic Gardening: Horticulture Across the Curriculum

Students, parents, and teachers at Elizabeth Avenue School in Franklin Township (Somerset County) aren't taking the summer off. They're tilling and hoeing and planting eight themed gardens for display and study within the school courtyard. Thanks to the creativity of teachers Timothy Minor, Barbara August, Anne Lyman, Robert Rafano, and David Shearer, and a $6,877 grant from the NJEA Frederick L. Hipp Foundation for Excellence in Education, the entire student body will participate in this unique learning experience.

The gardens will serve a dual purpose of enhancing the school's appeal, as well as providing an ongoing source of study and enjoyment for students and faculty. The themes of each garden will correlate with district curriculum and with the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards. With the assistance of an expert from a local garden center and parent volunteers, each grade in the school will design, study, and maintain a 4' x 16' garden of its own.

The themes of each garden are as follows:

  • Kindergarten Sensory Garden: extending the study of human senses.
  • Grade 1: Rainbow Garden: applying the concept of spectrum colors.
  • Grade 2: Native American Garden: supporting studies of Native Americans.
  • Grade 3: Butterfly Garden: incorporating the study of life cycles.
  • Grade 4: New Jersey Indigenous Species Garden: focusing on New Jersey wildflowers.
  • Grade 5: Colonial Garden: specializing on Colonial farm life.
  • Grade 6: Medieval Herb Garden: introducing the various uses of herbs over time.
  • Special Ed/ESL: Multicultural Garden: highlighting the cultures represented by our student population.

    This project crosses over traditional grade level and specialized area boundaries. Older students will act as role models working with younger students and trained student "experts" will work with small groups to help maintain the gardens. Gardening activities will be integrated into content areas within each grade level as well as the specialized areas of art, computers, music, physical education, and science lab.

    The plants, vegetables, fruit, and seeds produced in the gardens will be a source of study and beauty for the school, and a source of funding for maintenance of the garden. Student created products will include journals, scientific experiments, research reports, seed/plant catalogues, stories, poems, drawings, dances, and songs.

    During the summer months, school faculty, parent volunteers, and community service groups will perform garden maintenance. Continued funding will be provided through the sale of garden products and PTO funding. Future expansion of the garden project will be funded through additional grants and/or local donations.

    For more information about this project, contact:

    Timothy Minor
    (732) 356-0113