My School Yard Garden
by Steve Rich

Price at time of review: $12.95
32 pp.
NSTA Press
Arlington, VA
ISBN: 9781938946219

Grade Level: K-3

Reviewed by Debby Chessin
Associate Professor of Elementary Science and Math Education

This book caught my eye with its stunning photographs illustrating the relationships between plants in a school garden and the animal life it supports. There are many “how to” books on the market that provide information about the logistics of gardening, but this book is unique in its approach to teaching students K–3 about the interdependent relationships in ecosystems.

A theme throughout this book is the importance of being mindful of setting up sustainable habitats in areas of development. A schoolyard garden opens the opportunity to involve students in creating and nurturing a space to grow things for our enjoyment and nourishment as well as to learn about the benefits of host plants and planned landscaping concepts to neighboring creatures.

After making observations in the garden area, working with a personal nature journal is modeled here with sketches to go with what is being written. There is a Glossary for young gardeners to use as well as helpful References and Current Websites. Steve Rich includes an important note with Information for Parents and Teachers. His ideas are invaluable when thinking about beginning a schoolyard garden. All of this could also help someone who wants to garden with a youngster outside of school at home or in the community.

I am very glad to recommend this book for teachers to read aloud to the whole class and for students to enjoy individually or in pairs to develop many different concepts of life science. The text and corresponding photos in this book provide interesting facts about ecology, recycling and decomposition, requirements of living things, food chains and webs, life cycles, and nutrition. I especially appreciate the author’s inclusion of social studies concepts. Students will learn about sharing their bountiful harvest with those less fortunate, the colonists' first gardens and creative use of plants for food as well as medicine, and the “three sisters”—bean, corn, and squash—in the tradition of the Native American people.

Review posted on 1/6/2015

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