What’s Your Garden Type? The 4 Types of Gardens
Transforming any outdoor space into something different can be overwhelming. Several years ago, our community at my children’s elementary school embarked on the transformation of an old courtyard into an Outdoor Classroom. This experience led me to research the mechanics of Children’s Gardens. Absorbed in research, I discovered four “camps” of gardeners who focused on four distinctly different and separate ways of gardening. Getting curious, I quickly learned how a garden type can define the mission of an educator’s outdoor teaching practice. This exercise brought the clarity we needed for choosing garden elements for our Cove School Outdoor Classroom design. Since embarking on that first transformation to establishing many more Teaching Gardens over the years, along with, The Secret Gardens demonstration Outdoor Classroom, it is safe to say, understanding the options using The 4 Types of Gardens is the perfect guide.
Want to transform your outdoor space into an Outdoor Classroom, but don’t know where to start? Begin with an understanding of your options and use the elements of The Four Types of Gardens. This strategy will open a world of possibilities. Let’s dive into your Outdoor Classroom design and outdoor teaching practice with our 5 easy steps.
Step 1: Understand the 4 Types of Gardens
- Gardens That Feed are gardens that can be described as Edible Gardens or Vegetable Gardens. The focus of this garden is to teach children about nutrition and where our food comes from. These gardens offer captivating experiences for children to use their senses by looking at and tasting food they have grown themselves.
- Gardens for Art and Beauty bring all ages together. These gardens include sculptures, plantings, and flowers. They contribute to the community and teach us how to integrate music, dance, poetry, storytelling, and painting into the outdoor garden experience.
- Gardens That Attract Wildlife incorporates food, shelter, water, sustainable practice, and places to raise young. They are havens for butterflies, bugs, and birds and can be certified by the National Wildlife Federation.
- Gardens as Outdoor Learning Stations are inspired by themes such as a Mud Kitchen, Rock Garden, Miniature Garden, Sensory Garden, Alphabet Garden, Water Wall and so many more. These gardens connect the curriculum to the Outdoor Classroom.
What if we don’t want to be defined by only one type of garden? The best part of creating an Outdoor Classroom is how we can cross-pollinate, mix and match elements from the 4 Types of Gardens. The elements in each garden type stay the same, yet how they are put together in different outdoor spaces is what makes a one-of-a-kind Outdoor Classroom.
To help “move the needle”, play with defining garden elements you are drawn to for each type of garden. Be aware of your outdoor space, what’s possible, what’s not, and dream accordingly. Ask yourself, “How do visitors in the garden feel once they have arrived?”
Step 3: Choose a garden type(s) that best fits your needs.
Depending on your outdoor space, time, and ability, you may choose one garden type over another. Explore each garden type along with all their garden elements. Get children involved in the process.
Step 4: Mix and match garden types and their elements until the desired outcome is reached.
Do you like to make ice-cream sundaes? I like to think of The Four Types of Gardens as flavors of ice cream and the garden elements as the toppings. For example, I could create a Garden that Attracts Wildlife with a Butterfly Garden. I would add plants that attract butterflies, a birdbath, and a butterfly house. If I created a Garden as an Outdoor Learning Station next to it, I might add a Word Garden featuring rocks with painted words on them where children could leave messages for their little animal friends. The possibilities are limitless.
Step 5: Draw a sketch of your Outdoor Classroom using The Four Types of Gardens and all their elements
You don’t need to be a landscape designer or an artist to sketch your outdoor classroom ideas on paper. Observe how children are using the space and use this information to influence the placement of your garden types and their elements.
This is an ideal recipe for getting started and taking your first steps toward making your own one-of-a-kind Outdoor Classroom. Remember, there are no wrong answers. Be prepared to fail a few times. Note: The magic ingredient is PLAYFUL LEARNING!
Want to play with these ideas? The Seeds of Inspiration Card Deck is an idea generator for your Outdoor Classroom. The deck features photographs from The Four Types of Gardens with each card offering questions as prompts to guide your Outdoor Classroom design and nature-based curriculum outdoors..
What if you could have the guidance and support of a community right by your side, giving you the confidence, the assistance, and the motivation to keep pushing forward with your Outdoor Classroom goals? How would it feel to know that what you are currently working on for your outdoor teaching practice is the right thing to be working on, right now and for every season? Imagine playful learning outdoors where children’s curiosity is peaked and they are asking for more. Now imagine being able to teach outdoors while having a focused group of people to turn to for support and assistance.