Backyard Biology – Designing A Garden To Be A Kid’s Science Lab

Posted by Rochelle
October 5, 2015 | Family Gardens

Backyard biology - turning your garden into a lab for kids to learn everything from biology and math to marketing and economics

As the editor of this newspaper, my job is mostly to bring ideas together, and as they flow in from around the garden world, I get to fill in the blanks to make stories come to life on the page –  which is how I found myself bribing my son to allow me to photograph him running through someone elses garden.

In the end, I didn’t have to pay up – because the koi pond distracted and entertained him for as long as I needed (and then some) and he was having so much fun that he forgot about not wanting to help.

Backyard biology - turning your garden into a lab for kids to learn everything from biology and math to marketing and economics

Alexandra Cronin wrote about this inspiring family garden for the fall issue of PITH + VIGOR.  It is the home of two prominent molecular biologists (the parents) and their three children.  The garden was designed by Tom Wilhelm of A Blade of Grass — but it isn’t like most “kids” gardens.  There are no garish plastic toys, rather this garden functions as a small, relatively self-sustaining ecosystem, which they use as an al fresco classroom.

Backyard biology - turning your garden into a lab for kids to learn everything from biology and math to marketing and economics

Read the full story in the Autumn 2015 Print Issue of PITH + VIGOR — visit the P+V shop to order your copy.  

It is inspiring to think of all the lessons that can be learned in and through a garden.  While most of the learning that takes place in outdoor gardens is experiential, educational gardens can serve as great ways to start conversations on a variety of topics. A few ideas include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Science: conservation, evolution, seasons, food (buying locally, pesticides, organic), symbiosis.
  • Horticulture: tending particular plants (shade v. sunlight, varying soil types, water regulation), photosynthesis, plant identification.
  • Literature: as simple as reading outdoors on a shaded bench, or as creative as designing a Victorian-themed garden and reading classics.
  • Art: paint or draw the creatures, plants, and structures in the garden, design new paths/flower beds, create topiaries.
  • Nature & Wildlife: Ecology, habitat maintenance, insects and pollinators.
  • Business: Many garden products can be sold at local farmers markets giving kids an opportunity to plan small businesses that go beyond the lemonade stand.


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Blog Comments

This is exactly what I wish I had as a kid! Now approaching the age where thinking about kids is a possibility, it’s something I’ll ensure they grow up with. Great piece, thanks for writing 🙂

What a good story, I too would have loved to grow up in an environment like that, there garden areas look beautiful and full of life. My kids love to help in the garden and it’s a highly effective way for them to learn while having fun. Thanks

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