By Charlie Nardozzi, September 9, 2010
For young children, a word garden can be a great way to practice building sentences.
Kids are back in school. While academics mostly happen in classrooms, the garden can be a fun place to learn important subjects, too. Math, science, and English can all be taught using plants, soil, and wildlife to illustrate important topics. While gardens indirectly support classroom learning, here's a new garden I found that allows kids to directly practice English. It's called a word garden.
The first word garden, to my knowledge, was built this summer at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. Resembling a Zen garden, it is a 60-foot-diameter circular gravel bed surrounded by a stone wall. Inside are small stones that have more than 350 words engraved on them. The college students, faculty, and visitors are welcome to come and leave messages, write poems, or just construct fun sentences using the words. It's an engaging communication tool.
For young children, a word garden can be a great way to practice building sentences. It's truly hands-on learning. Engraving 350 words in stone is probably beyond most gardeners' capabilities and resources, so here's a less expensive, yet still engaging, way to build a small word garden at home.
Have your kids go out and collect as many flat stones as they can. Ideally each stone should be at least 6 inches in diameter with one smooth surface. Select an area in your yard, such as an old sandbox or part of the garden, and designate it as the word garden. With colored chalk or crayons, have kids write words on the stones. Supervise the kids and try to make sure there are plenty of nouns, verbs, numbers, and adjectives to go around. You can even pick a garden theme and ask kids to include favorite flower, vegetable, and fruit words. When the kids are done writing, have them place the stones in the garden.
Next, have the kids individually go through the garden and put together sentences or do it in teams. It's like arranging magnets on the refrigerator door, but in the word garden kids are outside, running around, and getting exercise while they are "doing their homework." The crayons and chalk will wear off after some rains, but that's just another opportunity for kids to start another game of word garden. The activity keeps them engaged and delighted as they work with the earth and learn an essential subject.