Compiled by Cindy Farnum

Following are additional resources you might want to track down if you decide to introduce plants as a teaching theme:

Literature Connections

Take a walk outside with your students and you will see that plant life inspires young people. I started my poetry unit by taking my students for a nature walk and reading them “Flower Fairies of the Garden” by Cicely Mary Barker. Then I read a few other inspirational poems about plants. Finally, I ask students to write in their journals about their surroundings; I asked them to focus their writing on the plant life around them. Later we use their journal entries to write plant poems of our own.

Picture books and read alouds are a great way to connect yearly themes to literary devices and reading skills. Following is a handful of picture books and read-aloud books I have used to bring plants into the school year:

Plants also are a great way to teach students about metaphors and similes. I introduced the following lesson by playing the song “The Rose.” Then I asked students to make up their own metaphors and similes comparing things to plants. Students come up with terrific examples of their own, such as “Her legs were as long and graceful as the branches of a willow tree blowing in the wind” or “His skin was as rough as bark.” < a href=> Little Flower: A Story for Children by Laura McAndrew is a great book to further model the use of metaphors. The story relates a little flower to foster children and explores how both react to a neglect of basic needs.

Science Connections, Of Course!

The following titles will fit nicely into lessons on a variety of science topics:

Why not dissect plants? When teaching biology, dissecting plants offers a great way to introduce anatomy and gives students a basis to compare other living creatures. Plant dissection can also provide an opportunity for students to draw connections between plant vocabulary and the plants themselves.

Have you ever thought of adopting a tree? A yearlong theme about plants will spark student interest in how plants grow. Invite students to plant a sapling of their own and spend the year recording scientific findings about it. Students will take pride in the growth of their plant and your school will be beautified in the process.

Social Studies Connections

Just as a plant depends on its roots, humans depend on family. Family is extremely important to students, so I have my students write their own “family history” papers. As part of the project, the students create their own family trees. Instead of using the branches to list past generations, however, students use them to record their hoped-for future families. The trees roots are used to record ancestors.

Another idea is to assign students a research project based on state flowers.

In addition to the books referenced above, the following resources can help you merge social studies learning into your plant unit:

  • Tree in the Trail by Holling Clancy Holling tells the story of a great cottonwood and the building of the Santa Fe Trail.
  • Do People Grow on Family Trees?: Genealogy for Kids and Other Beginners by Ira Wolfman shows kids how to trace their past -- how to track down important documents, create an oral history of their family, and compile a family tree.
  • Song of the Trees by Mildred D. Taylor is about a rural black family that is deeply attached to the forest on their land; they try to save it from being cut down by an unscrupulous white man during the Great Depression.

Math Connections

Certain plants, just like some animals, are becoming endangered due to environmental issues. As a math/ science connection to the plant theme, each student researched an endangered plant and recorded its demographics (region, climate, number thought to be left, human population nearby, and so on). We used the information to make graphs, compared our findings, and developed our own theories about endangered plants. I asked students questions such as: Do our graphs provide any mathematical proof that people affect plant life? What is the median temperature of the places in which our endangered plants are found? Which region of the world is home to the most endangered plants?

AIMS Educational Foundation is a great source of math and science related material that can be used for a unit about plant life. Their online catalog has tons of resources including Primarily Plants, The Budding Botanist, Exploring Environments, and Our Wonderful World.

Art Connections

Technology Connections Too!

Other Resources

The Clyde Robin Seed Company catalog contains information and pictures about seeds and various types of flowers. It can be obtained by email or by writing Clyde Robin Seed Company, P.O. Box 2366, Castro Valley, CA 94546-0366.

Teacher Gifts -- A Gift That Keeps Growing!

For the holidays I cut pieces from two of my overgrown spider plants and place their newly formed roots in a little soil. I use wrapping paper and ribbon to hold the soil. My plants were so out of control I was able to wrap up "baby" spider plants for all 78 students! The neat thing about this gift is that students still tell me that their plants are doing well.

Parents also followed suit and started bringing in plants cut from their own houseplants. I stuck with this theme throughout the year and filled my classroom with plants.

The plant-theme possibilities are endless! They offer so many parallels to student growth too; both require strong roots, have basic needs, have unlimited growth potential, and are sources of beauty! As the saying goes, "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow." Kind of like teaching!