Garden-Based Literature: Early Primary

By Eve Pranis

Amy Kjerrumgaard's first graders in Michigan have had the pleasure of exploring and tasting fruits, from A to Z. After reading Lois Ehlert's Eating the Alphabet, Amy's students got excited about locating and exploring every one of the 26 fruits described. "They were so eager to run with it," said Amy, "that I ran with them, and it developed into a year-long theme."

Each student published his or her own fruit alphabet book in which he or she drew, researched, and located the origin of each fruit on the map. "We would have a mystery fruit of the week," said Amy. "I was able to find everything from elderberries to Chinese watermelon (the name begins with x!) and would bring in two of each fruit. Students were blindfolded and asked to feel, describe, and guess which fruit was in a box. We'd cut open the second sample to taste, then we removed, dried, and mounted the seeds. We'd mount some seeds on index cards to play a concentration-type memory game. Others we'd use as math counters, and yet others we'd plant and observe."

Eric Carle's The Very Busy Spider provided a lively backdrop for the growing explorations of Jim Olson's kindergarteners in Minnesota. After reading the book, students made spider puppets, and Jim brought in a spider plant. His students, deducing from the plant's appearance, were able to name it correctly. Each student then planted his or her own baby spider plantlet to care for at home. "The kids are very attached to their plants," said Jim, "and regularly report on their growth and progress."

There are a wide range of early primary books that can enrich your "growing experiences." If you've discovered some children's books that complement your gardening activities that you don't see listed in the resource sections of the GrowLab books, please let us know. We'd like to share your ideas, and perhaps your book reviews, with others.

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