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5th Grade Science - Garden Design Project

This project has students gather background information about the different ways individuals and communities, such as Hidden Villa, use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment. Students will organize their findings and use that information to design their own garden in collaborative groups.

5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.  

Science and Engineering Practices

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Crosscutting Concepts

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to evaluating the merit and accuracy of ideas and methods.

  • Obtain and combine information from books and/or other reliable media to explain phenomena or solutions to a design problem.

ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Human activities in agriculture, industry, and everyday life have had major effects on the land, vegetation, streams, ocean, air, and even outer space. But individuals and communities are doing things to help protect Earth’s resources and environments.

Systems and System Models  

A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions.

Connections to Nature of Science

Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World.  

Science findings are limited to questions that can be answered with empirical evidence.


3-5-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Science and Engineering Practices

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Crosscutting Concepts

Asking Questions and Defining Problems

Asking questions and defining problems in 3–5 builds on grades K–2 experiences and progresses to specifying qualitative relationships.  

  • Define a simple design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process, or system and includes several criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems  

Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.

Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World

People’s needs and wants change over time, as do their demands for new and improved technologies.




Step 1 (Define the problem): Discuss how agriculture affects the Earth’s resources and environments. In what ways do conventional farming practices deplete resources and negatively impact the environment? Model for students how to gather information as a class to add to their list and clarify any misconceptions. Consider using a variety of sources: videos, books, websites, etc. Are the sources credible? How can a student tell?

Ask students to think about the different aspects of agriculture they should consider in order to design a garden that successfully protects the Earth's resources and environments. These practices should contrast those of conventional agriculture. List these as a class. Ask students to consider the needs of their school. How can these be grouped?  Help them come up with the four major topics. Define any constraints that should be put on the project. For example: What is a space at the school where they think garden can realistically be placed? Their design must work within those space constraints.

Step 2 (Obtaining Information): Students should work in teams of four. Each student will obtain information on one aspect of garden planning from books and other reliable media. Students can use the specified organizers to help them focus on answering relevant questions if needed. Examples of websites and videos are listed below for each topic, including Hidden Villa NGSS aligned videos.  

Step 3 (Collaborate): Students should be given time in class to meet with members of other groups who have obtained information on the same topic. They can share what they have learned. Students should write down anything new they learn on their organizer.  

Step 4 (Design): Students should take the information they have gathered and decide what they will implement in their garden design. Students should be given time in class to meet with their teams to see how all the topics come together to create a cohesive vision of their garden. Students will see some overlap in the topics and should decide as a group how to create a garden that protects the Earth’s resources and environments. There should be at least one strategy in place for each of the four topics.  

Step 5 (Present): Students can work with their teams to create a poster of their garden. They should draw their garden in the center. Each student should include a write-up to emphasize the strategies employed on the sides of the poster. (A tri-fold board will work well for this.) Have students present their posters or do a gallery walk. Students can write "wishes" and "stars" for other groups' posters. Wishes are things they wished they would have included, done differently, etc. stars are things they think each group did well.

Extension (Implement): Collaborate as a class to implement the best design or best aspects of each design for your own class garden. Students can come up with a plan to fundraise for and execute their design.



Water Use: Students should consider how/if they will harvest rainwater, recycle water, and conserve water in their garden.

● How Hidden Villa Saves Rainwater the Easy Way

● Rainwater Harvesting Basics

● Brad Lancaster ‐ Rainwater Science

Soil Building: Students should consider how/if they will have compost or use mulch. They can consider looking at beneficial plants to build the soil in their garden.

● Hidden Villa Video ‐ Digging Deep: Exploring the Compost Pile

 Composting for Kids

● Compost Guide

● What is Soil

Plants: Students should consider planting drought tolerant plants, soil building plants, and natural pest management.

● Drought tolerant plants

● Natural pest management

● Soil Building

Wildlife Integration: Students should consider what local species they might like to have in their garden. Which plants can help promote more wildlife and pollinators?

● Hidden Villa Video ‐ Helping Birds Build Nests

● Hidden Villa Video‐ Caring for the Wilderness through Careful Farming

● Integrating Wildlife Conservation and Farm Management

● Wildlife of the San Francisco Bay