Planting is a critical task in the garden because it connects us to culture, community, elder knowledge, and seasons. Through this garden task we determine which plants to include in the garden and how to prepare a place for them in the garden. It is a hopeful time of looking forward, preparing for the garden season ahead and connecting to plants that are important to us and our communities.

Plant Growth and Development

Plant Growth and Development is a critical task in the garden because it connects the gardener to plants. Through the use of human-built structures, plants can be trained to grow in a way that may benefit the plants as well as the gardener. Staking or trellising plants can minimize pests/diseases, increase productivity, and ease harvest methods. By supporting plant growth and development gardeners can see the reciprocal relations; the ways that plants support humans, other animals and other plants!


Gathering is a critical task in the garden because it connects us to culture, community, elder knowledge, and community history. Gathering is a time to harvest, preserve and enjoy the gifts from the garden. It is also a time of giving back, by sharing and celebrating those gifts with others.

Garden Planning

Garden Planning is a critical task in the garden that involves reflection, documentation, observation, research, design and planning. It also includes creating systems and structures that can promote care of the garden. A well planned garden is responsive to ever-changing sun/ shade/wind patterns, plant needs, seasonal changes, and year round gardening opportunities.

LE 1 Histories of Places Gardens Walk

Garden Learning Engagement

Thinking within and across many time scales is necessary to understand the complexity of socio-ecological systemsore deeply. As learners explore the garden place from multiple perspectives of time, you can also help them understand gardening as a set of human and more-than-human practices that are situated throughout history and communities by thinking around the following questions:

  • Who does gardening and for whom?
  • How has human decision-making shaped the land through gardening practices over time?
  • How do the land and land-based practices like gardening shape each other over time?

LE 2 “What Should We do?” Questions in the Garden

Garden Learning Engagement

Asking “what should we do?” and then making a decision is something that people, including gardeners, do every day. Deciding what to do involves knowledge about the place, understanding values and goals, and exploring possible impacts of a decision. Socio-ecological “should we” questions (1) explore relationships between humans and the natural world, (2) explore multiple possibilities and how each decision impacts families, communities, and the natural world, (including gardens), and (3) encourages us to make more ethical and accountable decisions within the garden, nature, and social world. “Should We” questions require deliberation and action, even when we are uncertain of the answer.


LE 3 Developing a model of the “Should We” question of the garden task

Garden Learning Engagement

Learners have already already drawn their first models of garden relationships- in their own neighborhoods with families and in the garden! Scientists, including gardeners, use models to visualize and understand their observations, to answer questions and make predictions about their observations of the natural world. Models help us visualize the relationships that we observe, and help us make visible relationships that we are not able to observe through sight alone. 


LE 4 Exploring different garden methods to address the “Should We” question

Garden Learning Engagement

Over time, gardeners learn different ways to address “should we” questions in the gardens. They might learn one way to compost from their neighbor, try a technique their grandmother taught them, and find another way to compost by reading a website. Or, they might have an idea about composting that they just want to experiment with. Gardeners often experiment with one solution, try something new if that does work, or try multiple solutions at once. Sometimes, a gardener may choose to do nothing–but they think through the possible outcomes of doing nothing and/or letting the more-than human world do the gardening for them.


LE 5 Community Interview

Garden Learning Engagement

There are many ways to collect data and gather information to explore a “Should We” question. Talking to gardeners, farmers, beekeepers, landscapers, etc in your community is critical because “Should We” questions explore the connection between the natural world and human lives, choices and behaviors. Agriculture is a practice that humans have been evolving all over the world for thousands of years. All cultures have agricultural and horticultural practices, many of which look different from the dominant Western styles of gardening and farming, and some of which include doing very little to the land and letting the more-than-human world do most of the gardening themselves. Community interviews are one way to reveal a variety of cultural and value systems that influence how gardeners make decisions. This LE will help you do this type of community-based research


LE 6 Investigation Questions

Garden Learning Engagement

There are many ways to collect data and gather information to explore a garden “Should We” question. Doing field- based investigations is one way. In this learning engagement, learners will carry out an investigation and collect data in the garden. This process of planning and carrying out investigations enables us to move from opinions, beliefs, or initial ideas about phenomena to making claims from evidence.

Data is the information we collect when we conduct our research, including garden-based observations, community interviews, and garden methods research.

Evidence is data that is used to prove or disprove a particular idea. Evidence is the set of data we use to answer our research and “Should We” questions.


LE 7 Summarizing Data to make a Decision

Garden Learning Engagement

The goal of LE 7 is to give learners the opportunity to make sense of the data that they gathered from the garden across settings (garden methods research, community interview, investigation questions, daily observation and data collection) in order to find answer to their investigations to answer their “Should We” question(s) and ground their decision-making practices in community and field-based evidence.


LE 8 Taking Action in the Garden: Applying the Garden Task Method

Garden Learning Engagement

In LE 7, learners discussed how there is some evidence telling us to take certain actions, and some evidence telling us that we should NOT take other actions in the garden. Now that you have made a final decision on your garden “Should We” question, you are ready to take action and apply the garden method with the group. There are many ways to take action(or NOT take action) in the garden. For example, the group may decide they want to harvest some of the sunflower seeds, but they also want to leave some seeds for the birds. Taking action may include harvesting some seeds and creating signs or communicating with the farm manager why they think it is important to leave the sunflower stalks up for the birds into the fall.


LE 9 Helping the Garden Grow: Sharing Your Findings for Future Gardeners

Garden Learning Engagement

Now that you’ve made a decision about your “Should We” garden question, your decision and the application of the garden method becomes much more powerful when you share it with others! It’s also important to share this information because there are many people who help care for the garden. The information you share will help their decision making, too, and how the garden will be cared for in the future. In this activity, you’ll decide on some ways to share your decision, why you think the decision is important, what future gardeners need to know about your decision, and anything they might need to keep track of or continue.

Dr. Carrie Tzou

Tzou receives research, scholarship award

May 2020

Carrie Tzou, recipient of the University of Washington Bothell’s 2020 Distinguished Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Award, has a current project gaining attention online as a resource for educators and families during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s called Learning in Places.

And the curriculum is suddenly in demand from teachers and families looking for online learning materials while schools are closed.

Read more at University of Washington Bothell News

A bee on a purple flower

Designing Places for Outdoor Learning

Co-designing Places for Outdoor Learning Facilitation Guide

Design engagements for families, students, teachers, and communities to reimagine schoolyards

The Co-designing Places for Outdoor Learning Facilitation Guide creates a process by which people can co-design outdoor places for field-based science learning on schools grounds. It is only one piece of a much larger ecosystem of materials that are part of the Learning in Places project.


Deliberación y Toma-de-Decisiones Éticas en el Marco de los Sistemas-Ecológicos

Marcos de Aprendizaje

Las comunidades humanas siempre han tomado decisiones socio-ecológicas. Desde opciones sobre qué comer, dónde vivir, cómo desplazarse, si el agua es segura para beber, entre muchos otros.  Estas decisiones están moldeadas por nuestros valores y prácticas culturales y reflejan fundamentalmente lo que llamamos interpretaciones de las relaciones con la naturaleza-cultura. Las relaciones naturaleza-culturales son las formas en que las comunidades humanas construyen sus formas de pensar y ser (todos los días, institucionales, legales, etc.) con el mundo natural.

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Focused Walk: Relationships Video

When you take a walk, what do you notice and wonder about the relationships between plants, animals, and people in this place?

Ms. Cordova from Viewlands Elementary takes a walk with a purpose to notice the types of relationships are happening between plants, and between plants and animals, between animals, between humans and animals, and more. Take notes: Record the date, the time, the temperature, and the weather. Write down things you notice, things you wonder, and take other notes.

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Focused Walk: Species, Kinds, and Behaviors Video

On your walk, write down what you notice and wonder about the plants and animals that call your neighborhood or yard home.

Ms. Cordova from Viewlands Elementary takes a walk with a purpose to look for species, kinds. and their behaviors. Take notes: Record the date, the time, the temperature, and the weather. Write down things you notice, things you wonder, and take other notes.

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Wondering Walk 2 Video

Today when you go outside you will look for one plant and one animal, if you can find them! Write down one thing you notice and one thing you wonder.

Ms. Cordova from Viewlands Elementary thinks about the plants, animals, and people in her neighborhood and what they need to survive. Take notes: record the date, the time, the weather, and the season. Look for a plant, and look for an animal, and take notes about what you notice and what you wonder for about each one.

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Focused Walk: Human Decision Making Video

When you take a walk, write down what you notice and wonder about the different decisions that humans are making in this place.

Ms. Cordova from Viewlands Elementary notices what types of decisions people are making in outdoor spaces. Take notes: Record the date, the time, the temperature, and the weather. What you notice, and what you wonder? What are the effects of the decisions humans are making? Who makes the decisions? What could I do to make changes in my environment?


7 things to know about quality K-12 science education in May 2020

#2Learning Engagements for Families

Learning in Places, a project with the goal of creating more culturally and community relevant, field-based learning opportunities for students, has been posting weekly Learning Engagements for K-3 students and their families. These materials were designed to support students and their families to engage in science that matters in the places they live. The materials facilitate families to ask and explore “should we” questions that engage the intersection of natural and social phenomena in our everyday lives. The project is a partnership of University of Washington, Northwestern University, Seattle Public Schools, and Tilth Alliance.  

From NGSS NOW May 2020 Newsletter