Teacher Feature: Infant Class Explores Gardening

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring infant teachers Trisha Goolsby, Nessa Moghadam, and Noel Ulmer. As the weather began to warm up this past spring, these teachers observed their children’s growing interest in the changing seasons. The infants had been enjoying their trips to outdoor locations on and around the National Mall, and especially loved pointing out the different plants beginning to grow and blossom in the Smithsonian Gardens. Trisha, Nessa, and Noel wanted to encourage their children’s interest in how plants grow from a seed to a full grown plant, so they decided to spend a morning giving the infants some hands-on exploration in the garden on SEEC’s playground.

Check out some photos of this lesson and a reflection from the teachers below!

Cottontail Cover

What were your topics of exploration? Why did you choose them? Where did they come from?

We wanted to give the children more opportunities to go outside and experience the warm spring weather, and incorporate the many sensory elements of being outside into the curriculum. The children had been noticing many elements of the changing seasons during our walks outside in the buggies, such as the blooming flowers in the garden, so we wanted to focus on gardening to widen their perspective.

Why and how did you choose the visit?

We wanted to connect our lesson to things the kids were noticing in the world around them, such as plants beginning to grow. We chose the garden on our playground to give the children a chance to interact with the soil and plants using all of their senses.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?)

We wanted to focus on the process of planting with the children so they could experience firsthand how seeds are put into the soil and covered with the dirt. We also wanted them to be able to explore the texture of the soil so that when they saw plants growing in soil out in the community, they would have context. Lastly, we wanted to give them a chance to play with garden tools to see how they were used, and to practice fine motor skills like pushing and grasping.

What was most successful about your lesson? How did the lesson reach your objectives to expand the topic? What was successful in terms of your preparation and logistics?

This lesson was successful because the children were able to explore the garden for a long period of time and remained engaged. Each child explored the dirt with their hands, feet, and even their mouth. Some children didn’t enjoy the sensory experience of the water, but we brought other related options to play with, and most children loved playing in the dirt.

(Check out what the New York Times has to say about the importance of mouthing — turns out it’s not only developmentally appropriate, it can actually be good for babies’ immune systems!)

What could you have done differently to better achieve your objectives and expand the topic? What was challenging regarding logistics? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

If we were to repeat this lesson, I would probably provide even more context ahead of time to help the children make connections between the lesson and what they had already experienced. I would have read more books about planting or flowers growing in a garden, and the process of gardening. I would also have provided some fully grown plants or blooming flowers for the children to explore.

Here are some photos from the lesson:


These kiddos started off with a little sensory play in the garden. The teachers had brought along some soil, and the children were able to spend some time touching the dirt before diving into the details of gardening.

At SEEC, we believe that children learn best when they are able to get their hands “dirty” — and experience the world around them using all five senses. So, these kiddos did just that!



Infants are sensory learners. These infant teachers knew that it was important to spend ample time letting the children play in the dirt. Sensory play is a great tool for all age groups, but can especially be beneficial for infants. This type of play can help little ones make cause-and-effect connections, increase the amount of vocabulary they recognize, and help build confidence since they are directing the play.


Some kiddos even tried the dirt using their sense of taste — with mixed reactions!


After the kiddos had spent some time playing in the dirt, Trisha showed them the pots they would be using for planting. She gave each child a pot to hold, and explained that they would be putting something called a seed into the pots. The soil will help the seeds grow, and someday that seed will be a plant.


Again, the children took a hands-on role in this process, helping their teachers push the bean and pea seeds into the soil.



When the pots were ready to go, the teachers introduced a few important garden tools for their children to explore. The infants were able to spend some time playing with a toy trowel, fork, and watering can, while their teachers explained how they are used.



The teachers also brought along some soft, familiar garden toys that the children had been playing with in the classroom to help build the connection with the real garden.


While the children explored, they were able to experience many different types of plants that had been planted by other SEEC classrooms. Some plants were in containers small enough for the kiddos to move on their own, while some stretched high above the infants’ heads.


Trisha, Nessa, and Noel bolstered this lesson in the garden with many trips to gardens and outdoor locations on the National Mall. Along with the many benefits of getting the infants out into the fresh air, these trips helped expand the childrens’ knowledge of the many different types of plants that can grow in a garden.

Check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more ideas from this unit on gardening! See you in two weeks with our next Teacher Feature!