SELECTING AND PLOTTING
A GARDEN SPOT
Selecting a garden site
Just imagine you have a spot (students can still take measurements of an area) and do all the design and planning activities.
scouting for a site, consider these criteria if you’re looking for an
area suitable for sun-loving plants.
the site offer:
sure you don't put your garden where there are buried cables, weeping
tiles, pipes or other potentially dangerous obstacles.
Check with the grounds maintenance staff before you dig.
If in doubt, call Iowa One Call at 1-800-292-8989.
Please give 48 hours notice, excluding weekends and holidays.
a large garden will use up all of your time and energy, so select a
relatively small area in the beginning.
You can always expand later.
After identifying your spot, limit access by putting a stake in the ground at each corner and tie twine around them to surround your garden on all sides. Hang a bright colored cloth or orange plastic tape from the twine to prevent people from tripping over it.
Measuring your garden area and collecting field data
This part of the curriculum is designed to teach students the mathematical concepts of “linear measurement, geometric area calculation and problem-solving.”
Before starting this activity, assign students to teams balancing them according to academic ability, social interactive skills and physical ability (ability to hold a tape measure and place it on the ground, sometimes on challenging terrain).
Each member on the team should be assigned a role as a reader, recorder, measurer, or quality controller. If teams have more than four members, assign multiple students to the roles.
The reader reads the directions to the team and makes sure the team is starting at the right point and moving in the correct direction. The recorder draws the outline of the garden on graph paper while recording measurements. The measurer takes measurements using a yardstick or measuring tape. The quality controller makes sure measurements are made and recorded accurately (hint: let a team member with higher math skills have this job).
Field materials for each team:
The instructional sheet should provide basic directions on how to conduct the exercise, as well as offer an illustrated drawing of the garden plot. The drawing should include several numbered spots (starting points) and a directional arrow.
Once in the garden area, each team should be instructed to stand at a different starting point. This is important so teams don’t get in each others’ way.
Teams should be given a few minutes to read the instructions, ask any questions and plan their measurement strategy. When the teacher says “start,” teams will begin measuring the outside perimeter of the garden, going in the direction of the arrow.
Students should be given a prescribed amount of time to complete their measurements. Measurements should be recorded on the garden outline that was included on the instructional sheet. Exact measurements (to scale) will be plotted on graph paper later in the exercise.
Measuring inside the plot
To expand this exercise for students in advanced grade levels (beginning with late elementary), measure any areas inside the garden plot that are segmented by sidewalks, existing plant beds, or other physical barriers.
In addition, record any existing physical elements that will become a part of the garden such as trees, structures, walks, etc., by measuring their distances from any of the pre-established reference (starting) points noted on your original drawing.
When working with existing plants, always measure and plot their drip lines. A drip line is a way of plotting the size of the plant’s spread on the ground. Just imagine a plant as an umbrella or canopy. The drip line is what forms from the drops running off of the umbrella into a circle and onto the ground.
As illustrated below, you don't want to place plants requiring full sun under the drip line of another. Planting underneath a canopy would be acceptable, however, if the plants are shade tolerant or considered ground cover. Some minor overlapping is even encouraged when the goal is a plant mass.
Using either standard or metric measurements
If your students have studied both standard and metric measurements, permit them to select either method for obtaining area and perimeter measurements. This will allow students to see how system conversions are applied in real-life situations by having them converted as an additional classroom activity. If you decide to exercise this option, it is recommended you come together as a classroom and convert the measurements that each team selected to use into a standard measure using feet and inches.
Teams should work independently when collecting data, keeping their information confidential. When the teacher gives the signal that the allotted time for measuring the perimeter is up, all teams should stop. At this point you can end the field portion of this exercise and students can return to the classroom.
Plotting field data
Back in the classroom, teams should be instructed to plot their field data onto graph paper, creating a more accurate “scale” depiction of the garden. The end product should consist of a two-dimensional drawing, illustrating the perimeter of the garden area, and depicting any existing plants or structures, if this option was exercised.
area land measurements, existing plants and other items onto graph paper
will be more easily accomplished using tabloid-sized graph paper at
a ¼ inch or 1/8 inch scale. Rounding measurements to the nearest whole
number will also make plotting on the graph paper go more smoothly.
sure students have a north orientation designated on their paper like
the one shown on the drawing below, or a full compass rose.
Depending on the size of the area in which the garden is
intended to fill, you may choose between the following two scales so
that the plot can fit easily on the tabloid graph paper.
inch scale: 1/4 inch on a ruler = 1 foot on the drawing
inch scale =1/8 inch on a ruler = 2 feet on the drawing
drawing, from the Edwards Elementary School project, shows one section
of an existing plant bed with railroad tie edging. The approximate size
of the flowerbed enclosure is depicted by a 1-foot wide double line.
Edging less than 6 inches wide should be omitted from the drawing, unless
your objective is to have students incorporate all existing elements
into their drawings.
Calculating the garden’s size
To strengthen and challenge the academic skills of all students, this activity is best conducted as an independent exercise.
Using their team’s drawing, students should be instructed to determine the garden’s size and express it in terms of both linear measurement (perimeter measurements, length and width), and area calculation (square feet).
Note: As the classroom’s instructor, you should have already measured the garden area yourself so you can verify the student’s results. (Because this is a complex concept for some students, you may want to set aside an entire classroom period for this portion of the exercise.)
To determine area calculations, students should have a working knowledge of the following skills: perimeter and area; addition; multiplication; and using information from a table. This instructional knowledge level is normally achieved between 3-5 grades.
Before students begin their calculations, you may want to review these mathematical terms and concepts:
If your garden area is oddly shaped, determining area calculations will
be more challenging for students.
If you’re working with early elementary students, you may want
to establish square or rectangular boundaries for your garden area.
This will make it easier to measure, plot on the graph paper,
and determine linear math calculations.
students have completed their calculations, they should regroup with
their team members, compare results and agree on the correct measurement.
Each team should report to the class their results and describe
their work process. This
is a good way to learn from errors made in the calculations.
Before moving onto the next step, make sure that all students have a drawing to work from that depicts the accurate measurements and layout of existing structures in the garden space.
Last updated: May 14, 2002