As the weather warms and eyes turn from page or screen to the greening world, a field trip can help enhance students’ writing skills and pleasure.
And you need not travel far. Many schools today have created small gardens or grounds that can be used as outdoor classrooms. Alive with plants, pollinators, and regional wildlife, these green spots offer hands-on and real-life lessons in math, science, natural history, geography, literature, and the arts. You can also take a beyond-school writing trip to a public garden.
1. In the classroom, prepare students by sharing poems or descriptions of plants, insects, and birds. What details make the writing vivid? Did the writer like or dislike this thing? (See below for some of my favorite poems/descriptions.)
2. As a class, have them list things they think they will find in the garden.
3. Have them bring their writer’s journals and pencils outdoors and challenge them to (1) look for the things they thought they would find, (2) add details (such as color, name, smell, texture, sound, and so on to “flower,” “butterfly,” or “bird,” for example), and (3) write down things/details they hadn’t expected.
4. In the classroom, discuss their findings. What were some surprises? What one natural thing did they find most interesting? Why?
5. Ask them to write a short description or poem that includes specific details and three of the five senses. For younger kids, you might also have them draw/color a picture and post their writings/drawings in the classroom for an “indoor garden.”
For more information on creating or teaching with a school garden, check online resources offered by the National Wildlife Federation www.nwf.org/schoolyard and National Gardening Association www.kidsgardening.org.
Some favorite garden poems/descriptions:
“Orchids,” “Weed Puller,” “Old Florist,” and “Moss-Gathering,” by Theodore Roethke in The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke.
“Petaling” and “Me Boy. You Plant.” by Heidi Mordhorst in Pumpkin Butterfly.
“You Never Hear the Garden Grow,” “The Nest,” “Cricket” in The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury, edited by Jack Prelutsky.