A garden of their own

The best way to make children learn is to engage them in activities related to things they are already familiar with. In this article, we suggest how they can be involved in putting together an artificial garden and, in the process, learn about various life forms.

The best way to make children learn is to engage them in activities related to things they are already familiar with. In this article, we suggest how they can be involved in putting together an artificial garden and, in the process, learn about various life forms.

A garden is usually a place to lounge and relax, enjoy the cool breeze and chat happily. But there is actually more to be found there. It is a place where one finds many life forms – plants, birds, butterflies, bees, flowers – of which little children learn more eventually under various subjects. But during school hours, it may become practically impossible to take them to a real garden and teach about such things. This can, however, be done with the help of an artificial garden which they can create in class.

At the outset, introduce the topic to the children. It is a good idea to use photographs and pictures for this purpose. Ask them to look closely at and explore their own garden or one in their neighborhood. If there is a garden in the school premises, your task will be easier. With a little effort, you could even arrange a trip to a garden close by. Back in class, ask them to recollect and note down all the things they saw there. This will enhance their power of observation.

Creating a background
Now ask them to create a garden on their own, keeping in mind what they have already observed.

First of all, they should create a background landscape which would include the sky, grass, and soil. They can use shiny foil papers for the sky and grass, and some ruffled fabric to indicate soil. Otherwise, they can paste newspaper on a piece of cardboard. Another cardboard can be attached to this vertically, to represent the sky. The two can be distinguished by colour – the soil, brown and the sky, light blue. On the ‘soil’ can be put blobs of green colour to indicate grass.

Making life forms
Then is the time to create the assorted creatures, plants, and flowers.

Flowers: They can either draw these on card paper, cut them out and attach them to a small stick, or cut out pictures of flowers from old books.

Bumble bees: Children can cut out shapes from black paper for the body of the bees. Strips of yellow paper can make for the stripes on their bodies, small sticker bindis for their eyes and yellow tissue paper for their wings.

Ladybirds: Their bodies can be made up of oval shapes cut from red foil and these can be decorated with sticker spots in black and white. Short strips of black paper can be used for their legs and small circular cut out of the same for their heads.

Butterflies: Children can cut out pictures of butterflies from old books or posters.

All these activities will train the children in exploring available resources and electing materials for a specific purpose. All these tiny pieces should then be stuck onto the ‘garden’ they have already made, at appropriate places. This model garden is now ready to be put on display.

Questioning topics
At the end of this exercise, discuss a few topics with them and raise questions on these:
• The life cycle of the butterfly
• Why does the bee sit on flowers and how does it use the nectar
• What is required for a plant to grow
• The various stages of the growth of a plant, etc.

At the end, ask them to look for brief poems related to all that they have created. A sample poem is the following:
HURT NO LIVING THING
Hurt no living thing;
Ladybird norburrterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily’
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.
– Christina Rossetti

You could also build up small activities around each of the components of a garden. Presented here is sample of the same:

Where did the bee fly?
Copy the picture and write sentences about it in your notebook.

Example 1: The bee flew under the coconut tree
At the end, you will find a bunch of enthusiastic children who will be creative and capable enough in various skills. Now, how about experiments on a ‘starry’ and ‘planety’ night sky?

This article first appeared in Teacher Plus, May-June 2000, Vol. No: 66.