Gardening for Homonyms: Integrating Science and Language Arts to Support Children's Creative Use of Multiple Meaning Words

To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.


Curriculum integration can increase the presence of science at the elementary level. The purpose of this article is to share how two second-grade teachers have integrated language arts content as a part of science-language arts instruction in a garden-based learning context. One application was a teacher-designed Gardening for Homonyms lesson, which supported new ways of thinking about words and wordplay while developing science vocabulary related to structure and function, diversity of life, and interdependent relationships in ecosystems. This article provides the lesson and discusses its implementation in two second-grade classrooms. Examples of student work illustrate children's creative thought around and application of multiple meaning words. Pre-, post-, and extended posttest measures of students' ability to generate and to use homonyms demonstrate that this science-language arts integrated lesson can result in both short- and long-term learning. Applications and follow-up from the lesson over two subsequent years have engaged second and third grade students in study/inquiry about plant growth and life cycles while utilizing many facets of language arts, which have ranged from labeling an experimental design and writing predictions and results to conversing about digital “GigaPan” images on growing strawberries.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... According to several studies, school garden teaching is characterised by its high degree of hands-on experience, experiential learning processes and student participation. We view these as essential teaching methods, and they are consistently emphasised as an essential difference between traditional indoor classroom teaching and outdoor school garden teaching (Fisher-Maltese 2013; Luna et al. 2015;McCarty 2010;Pigg et al. 2006;Selmer et al. 2014;Williams and Dixon 2013;Winters et al. 2010;Wood 2010). The definition of the term "traditional indoor classroom teaching" is often vague in the cited studies; and it is our interpretation that scholars often regard the meaning of this term as a matter of simple common sense. ...
... Research into learning environments addressing outdoor education, out-of-school learning or place-based learning often draws a distinction between the indoor classroom and the specific learning environment of interest (Peacock and Pratt 2011;Zandvliet 2012). Several of the studies mapped here also draw this distinction, with the school garden and indoor classroom being presented as distinct entities (Luna et al. 2015;Pascoe and Watt-Smith 2013;Rye et al. 2012;Selmer et al. 2014;Smith and Motsenbocker 2005;Winters et al. 2010). We believe that this distinction entails the risk of presenting the two learning environments as contrasting or incompatible, which is problematic because this is not the case. ...
... Blair 2009),(Graham et al. 2005),(Hazzard et al. 2011) Combination of indoor and outdoor teaching.(Luna et al. 2015),(Pascoe and Watt-Smith 2013),(Selmer et al. 2014),(Smith and Motsenbocker 2005),(Winters et al. 2010) Experiential learning as an essential teaching method.(Berezowitz et al. 2015), (Blair 2009), (Fisher--Maltese 2013), (Klemmer et al. 2005), (Pigg et al. 2006), (Selmer et al. 2014), (Williams and Dixon 2013) Formal and informal teachin ...
This article maps out existing research regarding the effectiveness of subject-integrated school garden teaching. The school subjects of interest are mathematics, languages and science, and subject integration is defined as a link between these subjects and school garden teaching. The article is based on an integrative review and is derived from existing research, which claims that teaching in school gardens has a predominantly positive influence on students’ academic learning outcome. However, experimental studies indicate that some programmes are less effective than more traditional teaching in the subjects concerned. The review extracts and discusses factors that are consistently regarded as vital to ensure the effectiveness of school garden teaching in terms of the integration of mathematics, languages and science. It is concluded that developing a school garden curriculum is essential with a view to planning, carrying out and evaluating subject-integrated school garden teaching. The teaching should include experiential learning and hands-on activities as teaching methods, making the subject content less abstract, stimulating the students’ senses, and increasing the feeling of meaningfulness. Furthermore, collaboration across subjects and links between indoor and outdoor teaching are central factors in ensuring the effectiveness of subject-integrated school garden teaching.
... Some research has established that the benefits of using school gardens in the learning and teaching process have a direct effect on academic performance, positive results of diet in students, and an increase in the intention of students to perform physical activity and develop psycho-social skills. A stratified, purposeful sample of 21 New York City elementary and middle schools participated in this study throughout the 2013/2014 school year, when schools with integrated and sustained gardens were studied; patterns emerged on how school gardens improve school performance and group integration processes [22]. However, several studies have pointed out the importance of studying the impact of learning and teaching in the use of school gardens [23][24][25][26][27]. ...
... This has generated an approach towards new pedagogical practices oriented towards protecting non-human organisms and nature as a whole (biocentric), generating new challenges for teachers to develop competencies, evaluation systems, and a contextual pedagogy [1,[33][34][35]. This has led to specialized curricular designs of educational programs incorporating gardens as a new form of pedagogical activity that contributes to knowledge and learning [22,36,37] and the curricula of teacher training centers [38]. ...
Full-text available
This paper analyzes the thematic trends in school garden studies over the past few decades, using a relational bibliometric methodology on a corpus of 392 articles and review articles indexed in the Web of Science Core Collection. The paper seeks to understand how researchers have studied the concept over the last few decades in various disciplines, spanning approximately eighty Web of Science categories. The results show that there is a critical mass of scientific research studying school gardens. The analysis shows the thematic trends in discussion journals, discussion terminology, and consolidates classic papers and some novel authors and papers. The studies and their theoretical trends lead to refocusing the analysis on the effects of school gardens beyond the educational, thanks to the contribution of authors from more than fifty countries engaged in the study of these activities. This work constitutes new challenges for this line of research, raising interdisciplinary research challenges between horticultural, environmental, technological, educational, social, food, nutritional, and health sciences.
... In other studies and practical projects, too, understanding of science content has been found to be enhanced when combination of creative techniques (e.g., Rule, Baldwin, & Schell, 2009;Rule & Rust, 2001;Ursyn & Sung, 2007), integrative instruction (e.g., Ursyn, 1997;Luna & Rye, 2015), integration of science and art concepts (Dambekalns & William, 2012;Gurnon et al., 2013;Stoycheva et al., 2018) are in use. This study further indicates that art should be emphasized for both aesthetic reasons and enhancing knowledge of other disciplines. ...
... Development of projects that explore the blurred boundaries between science and art is necessary. Whereas other studies have indicated science and art integration can lead to transformative effects (e.g., Ursyn & Sung, 2007;Eick, 2011;Gurnom, 2013;Luna & Rye, 2015), this study found evidences of the utility of science integration into art and vice versa. While the arts-focused group acquired greater benefits in terms of creativity, the seventy-five-minute class period possibly set a time constraint on the students' creative potential and skill level adjustment in the science-focused group. ...
Full-text available
This experimental study was undertaken with pre-service teachers to test whether the use of science integration into arts education increases demonstration of science details and creative features in artwork. Two conditions were created: arts-focused and science-focused; gouache still-life paintings were produced and analyzed, and an attitude survey was completed. The results suggested that science integration into visual arts classes increased creativity for the arts-focused condition and increased science concepts in the science-focused condition. Participants in both conditions reported positive attitudes, specifically, high levels of enjoyment, alluded to lack of experience with arts and creative projects, and expressed desire for more exposure because of emotional benefits.
... Common skills shared by both disciplines include observation, experimentation, problem solving, and openness to change (Chessin & Zander, 2006). Collaborative studies indicate increased interest in science through curiosity, cognitive effort to artistically visualize scientific concepts (Ursyn & Sung, 2007), collaboration with professional artists (Gurnon, 2013), and project/outdoor work (Luna & Rye, 2015). ...
... Notably, food education research usually focuses on interventions that take place outside of the mandatory curriculum, are short or fixed term and lack progression of learning throughout the primary years, unlike other subjects such as mathematics. A few studies do explore food education taught within mandatory curriculums [45][46][47]. One study [48] used food to teach mathematics and science curriculums in hands-on sessions with 4th grade students finding the intervention more effective than the control in increasing food and multidisciplinary science knowledge. ...
Full-text available
(1) Background: As one of the biggest drivers of health and climate change, the food system has unrealised potential to influence consumption toward affordable, healthy, sustainable diets. A range of policy levers, including mandating food education, are needed. Schools are considered the best place for food education and childhood is a crucial period when eating habits that persist into adulthood are formed. Food education as part of the curriculum is crucial in generating population shifts in food systems improvements. The purpose of this policy analysis was to analyse mandatory curriculums in different countries to explore the ways in which primary school food education addresses food literacy. (2) Methods: This study analyses how food education within primary school education policy, in 11 countries, addresses Food Literacy (FL). It is the first study of this kind. A case study methodology was employed, and curriculum policy content analysis was conducted using a Food Literacy framework. (3) Results: Each country has a curriculum dedicated to food education, supported by food education in non-food curriculums. There is no standardized approach to primary school food education policy, no consensus in primary food education nomenclature or what curriculums constitute. Curriculums focus on cooking and health topics, but significantly less on social-cultural, equity, and sustainability issues. (4) Conclusion: How primary curriculums around the world deliver food education policy to address FL varies enormously. All 11 countries have dedicated food curriculums, supported by non-food curriculums, but there is no consensus as to what food education is called or constitutes. Countries rarely deal with FL comprehensively. The most comprehensive are single, detailed food curriculums, complemented by non-food curriculums where food knowledge and skills progress clearly and are the intended learning outcome.
... Asking a young adult to narrate what is going on in the environment could foster relationships and possibly impose some cognitive order on the surrounding chaos, as well as extend hypothetical or future-oriented thinking. Such control might provide supports for executive functions and independence, a hallmark of transition from childhood to adulthood (Luna, Rye, Forinash, & Minor, 2015). Such activities have also proved beneficial in post-war Yugoslavia and Colombia (Daiute, 2010;Daiute & Botero Gomez, 2014). ...
Developmental science theory and empirical research on refugee situations requires an updated approach to the study of trauma as a multi-systemic and multilevel phenomenon. We present a theoretical framework that integrates developmental science approaches to highlight critical threats to development in situations of violent displacement. Given the complexities of displacement (causes, trajectories, and living circumstances once displaced), this theoretical model highlights the utility of an approach that recognizes the person-age-context fit in which displaced individuals live their lives and how both trauma and ongoing major disruption to daily life affects outcomes. In so doing, we aim to broaden understanding for future trauma and intervention research as well as practice with those who experience potentially traumatic events and severe disruption to their social ecology at different points in the lifespan.
Full-text available
Gardening is increasing in use as the focus of interdisciplinary teaching units in the elementary school curriculum and as a stratagem for student therapeutic, recreational, and social experiences. Elementary school teachers, identified as experienced in using gardening as a teaching tool, were surveyed and interviewed to determine successful strategies for integration of gardening into elementary school curricula. The most important factors determined by these teachers for the successful use of gardening in the curriculum were 1) student and faculty ownership or commitment to integrating gardening in their curriculum, 2) availability of physical resources, and 3) faculty knowledge and skill in the application of gardening to enhance an interdisciplinary curriculum. Educators who incorporate school gardening into their curriculum report that school gardening is a somewhat successful (35.2%) or very successful (60.6%) teaching tool that enhances the learning of their students. Most (92%) teachers surveyed requested additional school gardening education for themselves.
Full-text available
The purpose of this paper is to review the literature published during the last 20 years that investigates the impact of approaches that describe themselves as integrating science and language arts on student learning and/or attitude at the elementary level. The majority of papers report that integrated approaches led to greater student achievement in science and language arts across elementary grade levels. Additionally, integrated approaches facilitate improved attitudes toward both science and reading. The second section of the findings provides an overview of the types of pedagogical approaches used in the classrooms described in the studies. At all grade levels, teachers linked a variety of strategies including read-alouds, independent reading, at home reading, and writing in various genres that connected hands-on science activities to language arts skills.
Full-text available
The purpose of this study was to track the development of fifth-graders' reading and writing skills in the context of ecosystems science content using an action research design. A collection of students' work, a researcher journal, video-taped class sessions, student science journals and a weekly book choice checklist were used as data sources. Student journals, guided note taking and the PAR (Preparation-Assistance-Reflection) Lesson Framework were used for writing activities connected to the science content, and pre-reading activities, PAR Lesson Framework and book choice checklist were used as reading activities related to science content. It was found that interdisciplinary instruction of reading and science offered more advantages to reading than writing and science did to writing. In fact, the constraints of teaching various writing structures in the context of science often outweighed any benefits to either writing or science understanding. Implications include maintaining specific disciplinary instruction when necessary to ensure students meet both science and language arts objectives.
Full-text available
School gardens provide a unique learning environment for English as Second Language (ESL) students; students are able to engage in experiential outdoor learning that will enhance in-class lessons. This study evaluated the effects of school gardening on ESL students' learning about good nutrition. Data collected indicated that there were positive gains in student learning and feelings of belonging to the school community. Indications from the study suggest that teacher attitudes play a big part in ESL student engagement in the learning process for environmental education. Garden-enhanced lessons about nutrition provided experiential learning for ESL students that effectively supported in-class learning.
As teachers begin to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), they are challenged to focus on informational texts across the disciplines and engage children in critical thinking about complex scientific ideas. In this article, we pre-sent an integrated science–language arts lesson that explores plant adaptations using authentic texts and schoolyard ecosystem exploration. We describe strategies for using poetry and other authentic texts in science instruction, constructing scientific arguments and explanations using evidence, and making text to world connections. This lesson is written in alignment with the NGSS and CCSS and is intended to be taught at the fourth-grade level.
Next Generation Science Standards identifies the science all K-12 students should know. These new standards are based on the National Research Council's A Framework for K-12 Science Education. The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve have partnered to create standards through a collaborative state-led process. The standards are rich in content and practice and arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education. The print version of Next Generation Science Standards complements the website and: Provides an authoritative offline reference to the standards when creating lesson plans. Arranged by grade level and by core discipline, making information quick and easy to find. Printed in full color with a lay-flat spiral binding. Allows for bookmarking, highlighting, and annotating.
Statistical literacy is essential to scientific literacy, and the quest for such is best initiated in the elementary grades. The Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics set forth practices (e.g., asking questions, using tools strategically to analyze and interpret data) and content (e.g., statistics) to guide the development of statistical literacy. This article portrays how statistical literacy can be initiated at the upper elementary level through integrated science–mathematics instruction in an authentic context: project-based learning focused on a farmers’ market project and school gardening. The shared classroom examples illustrate how to scaffold students’ understanding of statistical questions and develop their ability to formulate good survey questions. Science practices and science and mathematics content extend to analyzing, interpreting, and representing data as well as structure and function. This article helps teachers find an appropriate balance between offering students the freedom to explore on their own and providing them with guidance to achieve the goal of enhancing the statistical problem solving process. Student learning is extended through seed germination and related experimentation, raising produce, and vending at a local farmers’ market.
What is the impact of garden-based learning on academic outcomes in schools? To address this question, findings across 152 articles (1990–2010) were analyzed resulting in 48 studies that met the inclusion criteria for this synthesis. A review template with operational coding framework was developed. The synthesis results showed a preponderance of positive impacts on direct academic outcomes with the highest positive impact for science followed by math and language arts. Indirect academic outcomes were also measured with social development surfacing most frequently and positively. These results were consistent across programs, student samples, and school types and within the disparate research methodologies used. However, a common issue was lack of research rigor as there were troubling issues with incomplete descriptions of methodological procedures in general and sampling techniques and validity in particular. Recommendations for more systematic and rigorous research are provided to parallel the growing garden-based education movement.
Although educators widely use school gardens for experiential education, researchers have not systematically examined the evaluative literature on school-gardening outcomes. The author reviewed the U. S. literature on children's gardening, taking into account potential effects, school-gardening outcomes, teacher evaluations of gardens as learning tools, and methodological issues. Quantitative studies showed positive outcomes of school-gardening initiatives in the areas of science achievement and food behavior, but they did not demonstrate that children's environmental attitude or social behavior consistently improve with gardening. Validity and reliability issues reduced general confidence in these results. Qualitative studies documented a wider scope of desirable outcomes, including an array of positive social and environmental behaviors. Gardening enthusiasm varies among teachers, depending on support and horticultural confidence.
Compares the traditional view of science with the more multidimensional view outlined in science reform documents. Outlines different genres of science nonfiction trade books. Describes a science text set and how it is used to encourage both science inquiry and science literacy practices in a unit on sound and hearing. (SG)
Elementary school goals for instruction focus on developing literate readers and writers. It has been recommended that language arts strategies can help elementary teachers more effectively teach science. The terms “integrated, interdisciplinary, and thematic instruction” are defined and examples are given for using each in an elementary classroom. Definitions are provided comparing language arts and scientific literacy. Use of thematic instruction with an interdisciplinary focus is recommended to help meet both language arts and science goals and objectives as they relate to the National Science Education Standards and the National English Language Arts Standards. Recommendations are made for helping teachers effectively use language arts strategies to help develop science literacy, and science to provide purpose for reading and writing activities within thematic, interdisciplinary instruction often found in elementary schools.
Integration of content in core disciplines is viewed as an important curricular component in promoting scientific literacy. This study characterized the current practices of a group of elementary teachers relative to their development of interdisciplinary links between science, mathematics, and literacy. A qualitative analysis of survey data showed that there were substantial differences in the use of a well-developed process for integrating instruction. Teachers also lacked a conceptual connection to integration, showed contradictions in the importance placed on hands-on experiences, used measurement as the primary interdisciplinary connection between mathematics and science, and did not use instructional strategies designed specifically for nonfiction/expository text. The findings underscore the need for professional development that assists teachers in changing their conceptual perspectives to integration while also building pedagogical knowledge related to integration of science, mathematics, and literacy.
There is a growing awareness of the importance of academic vocabulary, and more generally, of academic language proficiency, for students' success in school. There is also a growing body of research on the nature of the demands that academic language places on readers and writers, and on interventions to help students meet these demands. In this review, we discuss the role of academic vocabulary within academic language, examine recent research on instruction in academic vocabulary, considering both general academic words and discipline-specific words, and offer our perspective on the current state of this research and recommendations on how to continue inquiry and to improve practice in this area. We use the metaphor of 'words as tools' to reflect our understanding that instruction in academic vocabulary must approach words as means for communicating and thinking about disciplinary content, and must therefore provide students with opportunities to use the instructed words for these purposes as they are learning them.
Teaching science through inquiry and investigation
  • T Contant
  • J Bass
  • A Carin
Writing in science: How to scaffold instruction to support learning
  • B R Fulwiler
Engaging within time limits: An integrated approach for elementary science
  • J High
  • J Rye
Tomatoes, cucumbers, and salad tag: A farmer goes to school
  • W Summers
Interdisciplinary science teaching In Handbook of research on science education
  • C Czerniak
Integrating snakes and sentences in the primary grades
  • J M Hollenback
Revisiting garden based learning in basic education. Paris: International Institute for Educational Planning
  • D Desmond
  • J Grieshop
  • A Subramaniam
Indoor-outdoor science
  • J Gopal
  • E Pastor
Creating a schoolyard mini-garden
  • F Garcia-Ruiz
No child left in the woods, saving our children from nature deficit disorder. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books
  • R Louv