So … what’s the difference between horticulture and botany?

Botany is a broad field of science concerning the study of plants, and within that field is horticulture, an applied science dealing with the growing and maintaining of plants. Both can be utilized to spark interest, foster creativity, and grow student engagement.

Why should you include plants in your curriculum?

A 2009 study found that the presence of plants in the classroom increased feelings of preference, comfort, and friendliness as compared to a control group. Students also had fewer sick days and behavioral incidents. When students are happy and healthy, learning happens! Whether your students are working in a class garden or propagating old vegetables, they are gaining knowledge, skills, and experiences that connect them to the world around them. 

This list contains 10 science lessons that draw upon botany and horticulture to foster community, teamwork, responsibility, and inquiry in the classroom:

1. The Class Garden: Planning, Constructing, and Maintaining a Garden in the Classroom Community. 

It is important when creating a class garden that it meets you where you’re at. Perhaps you don’t have the space for raised beds, but maybe there is room for a vertical garden. No outside space available at all? Explore grow lights and indoor gardening. Whatever the situation, involve students in the process. Classroom gardens, in whatever form they arise, offer an abundance of interdisciplinary learning opportunities throughout the entire school year.

Check out these resources to get started planning your class garden: 


2. Eat your Fruits and Veggies!

Students bring in fruit or veggie scraps and learn how they can grow them into living plants. This activity provides students with the opportunity to observe how plants grow, and explore the differences between how fruits and vegetables grow. Using scraps from the produce also shows students that gardening is accessible, and can be a way to spark a discussion on sustainability, reusing, and recycling. 

Check out these lessons from and The Edible Schoolyard Project: 


3. Lights! Plants! Action! 

Students observe how light impacts seed germination and plant growth. This project allows students to understand how light quality and quantity impact a plant’s ability to produce food for itself (photosynthesis). 

Check out these lessons from and The Edible Schoolyard Project:


4. The Propagation Station

Students observe how different plant species can be propagated using cuttings. This activity can lead to a discussion of the differences between sexual and asexual reproduction in organisms. This project is fun to do with easy-care houseplants such as pothos, which students can take home and care for after successful propagation. 

Check out these lessons from and The Edible Schoolyard Project: 


5. Mini Greenhouses

Students construct mini greenhouses using various recycled materials. This STEM project can include discussions on seed germination and the greenhouse effect.

Check out this blog post from GrowNYC for ideas on constructing mini greenhouses using everyday items:

Also, check out this lesson from TeachEngineering for constructing a more advanced greenhouse using pre-cut acrylic or Plexiglas:


6. Protecting Pollinators 

Students learn what pollinators are and why they are important. This lesson offers students the chance to practice their research skills by discovering how they can support and protect the pollinators native to their region. A possible extension to this lesson could be designing and planting a pollinator-friendly garden. 

Check out this lesson from New England Primate Conservancy: 


7. Horticulture and Landscape Architecture 

A great opportunity to combine art and science! Older students explore the profession of landscape architecture and try their hand at designing their own landscape. 

Check out this lesson from Ontario Agricultural College: 


8. Color Changing Flowers 

A classic experiment to demonstrate plant structure. Cut white flowers are placed in cups of water dyed with various food colors. Students will be able to observe the flower petals change colors over the course of a few hours, with the most dramatic color change occurring after 24 hours. This experiment demonstrates capillary action, which is the process by which plants pull water up from the ground. 

Check out this lesson from The Stem Laboratory:


9. Sustainable Gardening—Research it! 

Students work independently or in groups to identify and research the environmental challenges facing local gardeners or farmers, and the sustainable gardening practices that might help. To encourage community involvement, arrange for students to interview local environmental leaders.

Check out this lesson from 


10. Plants and Soil Erosion 

How do plants impact soil erosion? In this lesson, three landscape scenarios are replicated using plastic bottles, soil, detritus (leaves, wood chips, twigs, etc.), and a layer of grass with roots. Students observe as “rainwater” is poured through a bottle containing just soil, a bottle containing soil and detritus, and a bottle containing soil and rooted grass. This experiment could lead to a discussion on human-related activities that lead to the removal of vegetation, and the impact that erosion has on ecosystems.  

Check out this lesson from Clear Community Sikar: 

10 Science Lessons to Grow Student Engagement



Scarlett grew up in the Atlanta metropolitan area, graduating from the University of West Georgia with a B.S. in Geography, and later from Georgia College and State University with a Master of Arts in Teaching. Scarlett’s love of the natural world stems from her outdoorsy family, who were always up for a hike at a local park, a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, or a paddle down the Chattahoochee River. Scarlett has experience in outdoor leadership, Montessori, and public education. Her goal is to make environmental education engaging, informative, and accessible, so that young people may better understand their place in nature and the importance of environmental stewardship. Scarlett is the author of NEPC’s Conservation Exploration! activity and Using a Dichotomous Key to Identify Primates lessons.


  • Han, K.-T. (2009). Influence of Limitedly Visible Leafy Indoor Plants on the Psychology, Behavior, and Health of Students at a Junior High School in Taiwan. Environment and Behavior, 41(5), 658–692.