Written by Chris Zdorovtsov (Former SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialist).
A garden can be used to teach many concepts to a broad range of ages. When working with early elementary youth you will want to consider characteristics of their development when planning lessons and activities.
Six to eight year olds may still have limited knowledge of the garden unless they were exposed to one at home. They will still need lots of practice of simple garden tasks, such as watering, weeding, insect scouting and harvesting. They still may need extra help, especially when participating in more intensive activities, such as planting. Consider having extra adults around for these types of activities.
Digging and raking to prepare the soil are still good activities for this age group. Provide opportunities to observe and taste different vegetables and fruits harvested from the garden. Additionally, youth this age enjoy scouting for insects. Consider curriculum such as the Lost Lady Bug Project, a program that not only teaches about the lifecycle and biology of the lady beetle, but also stresses their importance as a beneficial insect and allows students to become citizen scientists as they document the current lady beetle populations of a location.
This age group has an improved sense of balance, however there is still uneven muscle development as large muscles are more developed than small muscles. Though their control and coordination are improving, they will likely have difficulty planting small seeds or handling some garden tools. However this age group has improved reaction time, so they may be able to move a tool more quickly to avoid an accident or stop quickly before stepping on the pepper plant. Though this age group will pay more attention to the plants, you may still want to consider obvious pathways though the garden.
Allow six to eight year olds time to reflect, allowing them opportunities to express what they are observing in the space. They should be able to see differences in plant growth or health, especially if only visiting the space one day per week. Student could utilize a variety of mean such as drawings, words or digital photography (though pictures won’t be perfect) to record what they are learning in the garden.