Today I’m back with another of my most treasured children’s books to recommend: The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larson. In this story, Theo and her Poppa share many special days in Poppa’s garden. When Poppa downsizes to an apartment with a windy balcony, recreating that garden becomes a creative inspiration! Instead of plants in pots, Theo and Poppa set about painting an imaginary garden on a large canvas.
My students really responded to this book. We have been anxious for signs of spring, but since it has been a rather slow start to the growing season this book is just what we needed to tide us over until the warm days arrive. After reading the story aloud, the children were immediately interested in creating an imaginary garden of our own. We did a group brainstorming session and decided we wanted to begin where Theo and her Poppa began: by setting the stage for the garden by creating the soil, a garden wall, and the sky.
Our class compilation of ideas for the garden, generated after one of our read-alouds
The children get to work on painting the garden wall – they wanted the bricks to be in “an A-B-C pattern.”
A group of students work on painting the soil.
The children work on painting the sky. They really enjoyed mixing the paint to make different shades of blue.
Last week we continued our garden planning by setting up a planning station at the classroom writing centre. Along with a copy of the book, clipboards, planning sheets, and markers, we also included whimsical objects such as small gardening tools, pots, gloves, and real plants to get the children inspired. We also put out some books about different kinds of flowers. As the children completed their plans, we clipped them to the hanging display at our science centre. Throughout the week, children were invited into the hall to add their ideas to the mural.
Our Imaginary Garden provocation
Each student planted a seed in the garden and labeled it with their name. The children were asked what kind of seed they were planting/what they hoped their seed would become:
J.K.: Mine is going to grow into a Lego flower!
Y.T.: My seed is going to be a sunflower – a GIANT one!
Some children were interested in the idea of painting sprouts, just as Theo and Poppa had done. ‘”These are our baby plants.”
F.I.: “I’m planting wheat in the garden because I just love bread so much!”
J.M.: “We are painting vines. I got the idea of doing it when Poppa said, ‘The vines are reaching for the sun.'”
This is how our garden looked on Friday before we headed home. I can’t wait to see what will appear this week! The children have already established that next week our Art Studio will be dedicated to “painting flowers for the garden.” I’ll be sure to post an update soon so you can see how our garden has grown!
The spring bulbs popping up in the courtyard outside became a source of artistic inspiration for our students. Along with photos of our flowers outside, we also added pictures of spring flowers and some real potted plants I brought in from home to the Art Studio. The children had access to any colour of paint they wanted (and many decided to mix their own colours!). Many children visited this centre daily and waited anxiously for their painted flowers to dry so they could cut them out and “plant” them in our garden mural.
Below is a picture of our completed Imaginary Garden. After our project was complete, we reflected on our work as a class. As one student said, “Our garden gives us happy tears because we love it so much.”