Garden STEM at Home
New Content Available September 14!
Backyard Scavenger Hunt
Explore living things in your own backyard! First, complete our scavenger hunt. Then show what you know:
K-2: Label each organism as living or non-living, and as plant or animal.
3-5: Draw a food chain using at least one organism from the scavenger hunt. Then, label each component as producer or consumer, and predator or prey.
6-8: Share the scavenger hunt with someone younger than you and then illustrate a food web that could be found in your back yard, the local park or even your parking lot!
Texture Scavenger Hunt
Have you ever noticed how some rocks are very smooth but other rocks are rough? Or that the vein pattern on leaves can look very different on different plants?
Well, today’s activity is all about exploring texture in your yard and neighborhood.
If you need some help identifying the vein patterns on leaves, we recommend you start here. Then, download the scavenger hunt and you’re off!
This week, we’re back with another look at habitats. How do you know if a spider lives in your bushes? How do you know if a dandelion can survive in that crack in the sidewalk?
In our Habitat Scavenger Hunt, we ask you to explore your house or apartment, yard, driveway or neighborhood to find elements of a habitat for different plants and animals.
Edible Plant Parts
This week we’re back with another scavenger hunt that has you looking for edible plant parts.
Can you complete all the squares using your kitchen? How about your backyard or neighborhood?
For an extra challenge, try to find one example inside and one example outside for each!
Find & Draw 1
We’re back with another scavenger hunt to complete in nature – your backyard, your parking lot or your neighborhood! This time, after your complete your hunt, return home to add as much detail to your sketch as possible.
Find & Draw 3
Our Friday scavenger hunt will have you looking high and low, near and far. Can you complete each square as a scientific illustration labeling as much as possible?
Once you’ve added all the detail that you know, work with your family to research even more detail to add.
Yesterday, Dave Forehand, VP of Gardens, shared a video highlighting the bur oak. This awesome tree produces significant acorns!
Watch Dave’s video, then explore your neighborhood for acorns, and other seeds from trees. If they’re in your yard, make a collection and see if you can name all of the seeds. If they’re in someone’s else yard, draw an illustration of the seed and the tree you think it is from.
Plant Parts Hunt
Plant parts like leaves, roots, stems and fruit can look very different between different plants.
In today’s activity, you first choose one plant from your house, your yard or your neighborhood. Draw a scientific illustration and label as many parts as you can.
Then, go on a plant parts hunt to find some of the unique adaptations that leaves, roots, stems and fruit have in nature.
Rainbow of Flowers
Humans see a spectacular array of flower colors in the natural world!
Go on a nature walk and draw flowers (or plant leaves) that match each color of the rainbow.
Do you have any predictions which will be the easiest to find? Which will be the most difficult?
When you return home, research how other living things see color. Do bees see the same colors as we do? What about your dog or cat?
Shades of Green
Chlorophyll gives plants their green pigment, but the color of green we see can look very different. Today, we invite you to explore the varying shades of green found in plants in nature. Print the scavenger hunt linked below or create your own. You could also do a photo scavenger hunt and then arrange the photos from the lightest green to the darkest.
As you observe the shades of green, draw a sketch of each leaf. Perhaps, you can also write notes about the plant, where you found it and if you know any information about it.
If you need identification help, try iNaturalist, a free app that allows experts to help you identify things you find in nature.
Find & Draw 2
Today’s scavenger hunt will have you looking high and low! Once you complete each square, choose one of your sketches to investigate more deeply. What new scientific learnings can you uncover today?
Edible Plant Parts
Humans eat an incredible variety of plants, but have you ever considered what part of a plant our favorite fruits and vegetables are? Download and print our edible plant parts sorting mat (or just make your own). Then, explore your refrigerator and pantry for foods that are plants. Decide which part of a plant each food is and add it to your sorting mat. What plant part do you eat the most? Is there a plant part that you don’t normally eat?
Sun or Shade?
We often describe a habitat as all of the elements, living and nonliving, that something needs to survive, but can a plant grow and survive without sunlight?
In today’s lesson, Sun or Shade, kids compare the growth of a seedling with and without sunlight. By collecting and comparing data using our simple data sheet, we ask students to think more deeply about plant survival.
A highlight of many student’s science learning is the ability to see living specimens in their classroom. The Dallas Arboretum Education team has a number of classroom lab programs that do just that, too!
During this unprecedented time in which we can’t share these animal ambassadors with you, we’re fortunate to have academic partners like Northwest ISD.
Today, we share their Life Science Studies website, which brings insects, reptiles and chickens to you. You can even see chickens, guinea hens, turkeys and ducks hatch next week!
The last two months has many of us – kids and parents alike – seeing backyard nature in a whole new light. We’re observing the phases of the moon, the arrival of spring through blooming and budding plants and the life cycle of birds, butterflies and more.
Feels good, right? Today’s activity provides the perfect artistic outlet to share all of these nature observations your family has been making. Below we’ll provide the perfect template and great alternate examples of a tunnel book. A tunnel book is any book that allows the reader or viewer to see through sections a reveal a 3D world. It can make many forms. We love using it to explore life cycles (with a different stage on each panel) and patterns (like the moon phases), but your options are endless. It can even make a great 3D scrapbook for a family hike, vacation or significant event. The template we’ve provided includes optional cover pages that can be used to write about the experience that inspired the tunnel book. On the last page, we’ve provided a list of resources showing sample tunnel books from students, teachers and artists. They’re sure to inspire your tunnel book journey!
When we picture our kids making observations of nature, it often looks like this image. We traditionally think about observations being what we SEE in nature, and often times, we then ask kids to record these observations as words and images. Sound mapping is an activity that encourages families to observe nature in a distinct new way: using only sounds.
Sound maps help us to focus less on what we can see and instead on intently observing the natural world around us. By downplaying the importance of sight, sound mapping actually trains participants to center their concentration on the natural world around them and they couldn’t be easier to make!
A piece of cardboard and a marker are all you need to make a sound map. You can also use a notebook or journal if you have one. Participants should mark an ‘x’ in the middle of the board and this is their location in the map. Then, for a set period of time (we recommend starting with 3-5 minutes), participants should sit quietly and listen for signs of nature around them. Then, mark their location on the map along with quick illustrations that show what was heard. If you hear a bird, do a quick sketch. How can you indicate the sound it made or where it came from? Encourage kids to provide as much information with their sketch as possible. Check out some great examples of what it could look like here. And if you’re a teacher, here is a sample lesson plan that you can share with your students and their families. A sound map is likely to inspire more questions about the natural world. How does the same spot sound at a different time of day or year? What sounds are only heard in the evening? What was that strange clicking sound I heard? Was it an insect? Can I hear it again? Perhaps, a sound map is the start of your backyard nature journal – or it may be a way to capture your favorite nature spots. Plus, you’ll have a great art piece to celebrate science learning and childhood inquiry. Happy sound mapping!
Is This My Home?
Explore habitats at home with our Is This My Home? lesson. Students and families will investigate the four elements of a habitat and compare how their habitat compares to that of a different animal and a plant.
What makes a drawing scientific? In today’s activity we explore how drawings and scientific illustrations are different. Follow the steps below:
- Quickly draw a bee that somone else in your family can recognize as a bee.
- Now, label all the parts.
Have you included the correct number of legs? wings? eyes? body segments? Chances are, you didn’t because some of the basics are enough to recognize a bee.What if your audience was students learning about the parts of an insect? How would your drawing change? Now, draw a second illustration focused on drawing an accurate bee. How has your illustration changed? See the link below for two examples.
Next, choose something living that you don’t know much about. Draw what you think it looks like, then do some research online and create a second scientific illustration with as much detail as possible.
The time spent at home has many families observing patterns in nature such as the arrival of spring as seen through growing leaves and blooming buds, the changes in the moon phases and the life cycle of birds and butterflies.
Today, we have a template you can use to illustrate one of these patterns or cycles. It gives you four windows for illustrations and for information. Check out the student sample for the lunar cycle.
What scientific observations or natural phenomenon will you choose? We’d love to see the results!
Our classroom lab program, The Scoop on Soil, looks at how plants grow in different soil types. It’s essential question is: how well does a pea plant grow in different soils?
This is an activity you can easily do at home. All you need is something that will grow from your pantry or spice rack, like poppy seeds, lima beans or popcorn. Not sure if it will grow? You can do a test by placing it in a damp paper towel, inside a plastic baggie in a sunny window. If it sprouts, it will work for this at home lab.
Once you’ve selected your seed for growing, fill three cups with different soils – you can choose soil from your flower bed, your yard, a potted plant, gravel from the driveway or even kitty litter. Then, plant and water your seeds.
Use our growing chart to record your data. What do you notice about growing height? amount of water needed? the healthy look of the plant over time?
Make a log of all the questions you have as your complete the trial – it may inspire you to test another question!
Backyard Bird Ethogram
This spring we have shared several ways to document observations made in nature. Journals, photographs and scientific illustrations all help kids focus on the world around them. Today, we share another way to catalog the living world – ethograms.
An ethogram is a scientific study of an animal’s behavior. It includes all possible behaviors that an animal or group of animals could exhibit. They allow different scientists to collect and share meaningful data.
We’ve created an ethogram for backyard birds. In order to collect this data, have your child or student select a safe outdoor space that is frequented by birds. Set a collection time and duration. Then, each time a behavior is observed, mark a tally in the column. At the end of your set time, write a total for each behavior. This allows kids to rank the most frequent behaviors in a given location.Which behaviors are most common in your yard or neighborhood? What are some possible explanations? What does bird behavior look like at different times in the day in the same location? What does it look like in different locations at the same time of day? Perhaps, you can coordinate a family or neighborhood research day.
If you’d like a bit more information about ethograms, check out this guide from the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Geometric patterns and symmetry are everywhere in nature. In today’s lesson, we encourage you and your family to explore patterns that you find in your house. You can use these patterns to test your knowledge of 2D and 3D shapes or even to create art using mathematical concepts like tessellations. Let your mind run wild – and you might even find these shapes in your yard or neighborhood. Can you go on a hexagon walk? Find squares in the kitchen? The options are endless!
Water Quality Testing
One of our signature education programs in the Children’s Adventure Garden is Texas Native Wetlands. In this program, students use high tech probeware and microscopes to explore the macroinvertebrates that call our wetlands home.
Today, join staff educator Christine as she provides an opportunity to explore water quality from home!
Have your evenings at home given you the opportunity to notice the night sky? Have the sunsets looked stunning? Have you seen changes in the moon?
All of these things happen everyday, but taking pause to notice them can help connect you to the natural patterns in the night sky and the world around you.
In today’s activity, education specialist Christine shows you how to make constellations to create your own night sky!
Dallas Arboretum Educator Christine is back with another Children’s Adventure Garden at Home video. Today, she helps you connect with our Living Cycles learning gallery, with an outdoor exploration of the elements of a habitat.
Our wildly popular Pure Energy learning gallery, in the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, focuses on three types of alternative energy: wind, solar and water.
Explore sources of energy at home with the Dallas Arboretum education team, and you’ll never look at everyday things at home the same way!
Earth Month Challenge
Our friends at the Denver Botanic Gardens have created an Earth Month Challenge for your entire family.
See how many categories you can complete before the end of April – it can be a challenge just for you, for your family or for your besties.
The unifying them of the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is the movement of water, and today it serves as our inspiration for an opportunity to explore gravity and momentum at home.
Kid’s marble runs, like the one pictured here, have been popular for decades, but you can make your own at home – and use it to engage your kids in scientific discussion!
Educator Christine is back with another at home activity to connect with our Children’s Adventure Garden. Today, she shares our Habitats gallery with a field exploration that you can complete in any outdoor space!
Did you know that you already have everything you need to build your own greenhouse at home? While it may not be your plant’s forever home, this week’s lesson Window Greenhouse provides easy to follow instructions for growing seedlings in your window by using a zipper bag. Explore the refrigerator, pantry and spice rack – or raid the grass seed in the garage – and you’ll have days of fun observing plants in action, all from the safety of home!
Each season, our horticulture team transforms the garden with thousands of plants highlighting seasonal color. From spring tulips to summer tropicals and fall pumpkins to winter greens, there is one thing that stays the same: a garden full of resplendent color!
Today, we invite you to dream of how you’d design the Jonsson Color Garden! First, watch VP of Gardens Dave Forehand highlight this incredible undertaking. Then, download the image of “B” Bed and either use your mobile app of choice (like Instagram Story) or print and color with marker. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, download our scale drawing of “A” Bed and put your math and design skills to work.
Just like oak trees and sunflowers, many of the vegetables we eat reproduce by making seeds.
Take a look at our VP of Gardens, Dave Forehand, as he explores what the asparagus plant looks like when it goes to seed – it may surprise you!
Then, take an inventory of the vegetables in your refrigerator. Decide what part of a plant each one is. For the ones that are not fruits or seeds, research what their fruit and seed looks like!
Root of Plant Energy
We know that green leaves capture the sun’s energy and feed plants, but where do they store their energy?
In today’s activity, we visit with VP of Gardens Dave Forehand as he provides a clue to where this energy is stored on plants like tulips and daffodils.
After you watch Dave’s video, complete the activity below:
Grades K-2: make a list of all the roots that you eat
Grades 3-5: make a list of edible and non-edible plants that store energy underground like tulips
Grades 6-8: do a neighborhood walk looking for plants that probably store their energy in the same way that tulips do; illustrate and name as many as you can.
Spending more time at home has many of us thinking about what we could grow and eat from home all year round.Today, we invite you to watch VP of Gardens Dave Forehand highlight a winter plant that can actually grow in your summer North Texas garden as well: swiss chard.
Then download the Texas A&M planting guide here to start planning your own home garden.
Start with your vegetable plan, based on the season and space available, then dream up your ideal garden!
Three Sisters Garden
For many indigenous peoples from the Southwestern United States south into Central America, the three sisters garden has been a food staple for centuries – and variations now exist worldwide.
Today, VP of Gardens Dave Forehand overviews our Three Sisters demonstration garden in the Incredible Edible gallery of the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden.
After watching Dave’s video, take a look at this post that provides more detail on the science behind this method and options of how you could build your own. And it’s not too late to start one for this year!