Teacher: Matthew Little

Environmental Science 12


Indigenous Plant Garden

Unit Scope: 8 Lessons. Complete lesson plans are available for lessons 1-3.

Unit Overview

This unit will attempt to connect the act of gardening indigenous plant species to broader concepts of land use and sustainability. Teacher supported lessons use culturally relevant materials and pedagogies to provide a framework for deeper learning. Activities undertaken through community-supported learning – the gardening itself – reinforces these lessons experientially, while connecting students with their community, First Peoples Principles, and indigenous ways of knowing.


Lesson Sequence


Big Ideas/Learning Standards/Core Competencies
Aboriginal Content/Links to FPPL
Teaching Strategies


Formative Assessment
Summative Assessment


Lesson Sequence and Adaptations/Extensions:

Lesson Sequence:

Greater detail for lessons 1-3 can be found by following each link to see the complete lesson plan:

Lesson 1: Nature Walk


  • Indigenous Species
  • Ornamentals
  • Invasive Species



Description / Overview

This lesson is a guided nature walk in which students are introduced to invasive, non-invasive, indigenous and non-indigenous plants. If the instructor is not a naturalist, students can refer to regional field guides – these guides can be used to facilitate a photo scavenger hunt. Students are introduced to the important ecological impact of invasive species from the perspective of their local ecology. Students can begin to develop an understanding for the implications of a garden which uses indigenous plant species.


As with other nature walks, sites can be chosen that are accessible for all students. If no green space is available, students have been unable to attain appropriate permissions, the lesson plan has suggestions for interesting videos and in-class activities.


Local farmers, park staff, government staff etc. can introduce students to these topics. If a larger time allotment can be given to students, this lesson can be rolled together with the lesson on invasive species removal. For example, the invasives that students identify can then be removed (either immediately, or at a later date).

Lesson 2: Invasive Species Removal


  • Invasive Species
  • Non-Invasive Species
  • Indigenous Species
  • Non-Indigenous Species


Possible Collaborating Organizations:

The Lower Mainland Green Team

Resources & Events:

Invasive Species Council of BC

Description / Overview

This lesson allows for students to connect with a local volunteer organization or invasive species expert to facilitate the ecological restoration of a local ecosystem. This could involve removing English ivy, Himalayan Blackberry or one of the many other invasive species in BC. As some plants are noxious, it may be important to ensure a qualified professional guides this lesson and activity; nevertheless, some resources are provided in terms of the safe removal of invasive species.


Similar adaptations may be appropriate as in lesson 1: sites can be chosen that are accessible for all students. If no green space is available, students have been unable to attain appropriate permissions, the lesson plan has suggestions for interesting videos and in-class activities.


It may be possible to facilitate student enrollment into a local volunteer organization. Similarly, given appropriate measures – ie. event insurance – it may be possible to open up the excursion to the community at large, coming together to remove identified invasives.

Lesson 3: Planning a Garden


  • Budgeting
  • Sourcing Materials (seeds, construction)
  • Choosing appropriate plants

Description / Overview

This lesson is an opportunity to research and share a snippet about an indigenous species (plant, pair, share). Students are encouraged to begin the selection process in terms of what plants they will choose for their garden. Students can look to local supply prices (building and garden supplies) to test feasibility.

Check out an indigenous plant garden at this Washington wildlife park:


Budgeting and the construction material aspects can be stripped while leaving the choice of plants to students. The lesson can be re-imagined, where students justify their choice of plants from a list of indigenous species, rather than being about sourcing and choosing these plants.


If applicable nurseries (and/or construction suppliers) are in the neighbourhood, a tour might be arranged for students to learn about how native plants can be cared for once they are put into a garden.

Lesson 4: Planning Cont.

Lesson 4: Planning Cont.


  • Plotting out where the garden will be situated
  • Deciding how the garden will be landscaped
  • Outlining how the garden will be constructed from beginning to end.

Description / Overview

Students know what they are going to plant, now they have to plan out the where and how. Students will create a map of their garden, and will outline how their garden will be created from beginning to end, knowing that the shovels will be out sooner than later.

(Courtesy of John Cripps)


If the garden is already plotted out, students can map out where the various plants will go inside of those plots. For a greater challenge, students can model the garden with tools such as SketchIt.


Students can be asked to justify their choices, considering the importance of usable berries, shade, aesthetics etc.

Lesson 5: Elder / Community Expert

Lesson 5: Elder / Community Expert


  • Traditional First Peoples Traditional Uses of Plants / Herbs
  • Tea Tasting
  • Salal berry Icecream


Possible Collaborating Organizations:

BC Elders Communication Center


Aboriginal Education in British Columbia

Description / Overview

This lesson seeks to bring an Elder into the classroom to talk about traditional First Peoples use of the land, with a focus on plants and their uses.


If an Elder cannot be found, or there is a lack of budget, students have the opportunity to taste-test a variety of teas which are made from traditional plants. Alternatively, students may sample salal berry icecream.


It may be possible to gain some assistance from community volunteers.

Lesson 6: Building a Garden

Lesson 6: Building a Garden


  • Tool Safety
  • Marking off the Garden
  • Removing Grass

Description / Overview

The next three lessons involve construction of the garden. This particular lesson includes information about safety concerns. Expected progress is to mark off the plots and possible to remove the grass.


Adaptations can be made in terms of assigning specific roles – one individual is in charge of tools, another in charge of directing the placement of markers / string etc.


It may be possible to gain some assistance from community volunteers.

Lesson 7: Building a Garden Cont.

Lesson 7: Building a Garden Cont.


  • Composting
  • Soil removal / filling the garden in with fresh soil


Possible Collaborating Organizations:

The Lower Mainland Green Team

Resources & Events:

Invasive Species Council of BC

This lesson may require gardening hand tools or carpentry tools if building raised beds.

Description / Overview

This lesson is the 2nd of 3 allotted to building a garden. This lesson has an optional component which covers basic composting for a garden. The expected progress is for grass to be removed, and new soil to be put in.


Adaptations can be made in terms of assigning specific roles as per lesson 6.


It may be possible to work with community volunteers to help facilitate the construction of the garden.

Lesson 8: Building a Garden Cont.

Lesson 8: Building a Garden Cont.


  • Planting / Watering


This lesson may require gardening hand tools.

Description / Overview

In this lesson students mock up where they want the specific plants, then plant and water them.


Similar adaptations as lessons 6 and 7 – students may be given some autonomy as to where they plant a specific plant or plants.


It may be possible to facilitate student involvement in local community gardens or repeat their project only this time with vegetables / fruits – how would their design change given this different use?

Adaptations & Extensions:

Greater detail for lessons 1-3 can be found by following each link to see the complete lesson plan:

Adaptations and Extensions

Adaptations and Extensions:

What follows are the “nine critical steps needed to plan a lesson that reaches at risk students” from the Adaptions, Extensions, Modifications and Strategies: Collaboration Training, Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services document. Examples are offered demonstrating how this lesson sequence and learning guide fulfill each of these strategies:

Critical Step


  • Unit Examples

Involve students in as many ways and modalities as possible:  write, say, spell, sing, report on, do rap, do poetry, auditory, visual, tactile, etc.

  • Students plan and build a garden
  • Students remove invasive species
  • Students have the opportunity to taste local plants in teas

Show them what you want them to learn; what does the final product look like?

  • Volunteers demonstrate how to remove invasive species
  • Videos of other school and indigenous gardens introduce possibilities
  • Videos of properly built raised beds are available

Make sure every child participates in an active way; engage all students; everyone participates

  • Limited use of lecture methodologies
  • Opportunities to taste indigenous teas
  • Community and First Peoples connections mean that students are not interacting with only one adult
Clear Expectations

Tell them exactly what they will be doing/learning during class; structure for them; let them know exactly what they will have to do

  • Expectations outlined at the beginning of the unit, and reiterated in every lesson
Personal Responsibility

Be sure to include parts that they must do independently; be sure to show them the parts you cannot do for them.

  • Construction activities, such as the building of a particular model of raised bed can be done independently
  • It is up to students to design the garden and to choose plants that work in that space, and to justify those choices

Work with them when they try hard and be sure to give partial credit; encourage

Practice Groups / Partners

Break them into groups and let them work on it

  • Garden bed activity is collaborative
  • Most activities are meant to be accomplished as a group
Response Opportunity

Give them all a chance to talk; student centered – not teacher talk only

  • Final assessment is an interview – the student will have an opportunity to describe their ideas.

Determine if students have met the objective and adjust as necessary

  • Anecdotal, based on conversation
  • Based on completed plans / planning process
  • Based on garden / gardening process
  • Anecdotal, identification of invasives during nature walk

 Curricular and Pedagogical Connections:

Big Idea Focus:

Land Use and Sustainability

Sustainable land use and food production will meet the needs of a growing population.

  • Indigenous plant berries can be cultivated with low environmental consequences.

Global Environmental Changes

Living sustainably supports the well-being of self, community and earth.

  • Indigenous plants help support and maintain indigenous ecosystems.

Curricular Competency Focus:

Questioning and Predicting

Demonstrate a sustained intellectual curiosity about a scientific topic or problem of personal, local, or global interest

  • Invasive species are a global and local concern, and can have a profound, limiting effect on biodiversity

Planning and Conducting

Collaboratively and individually plan, select, and use appropriate investigation methods, including field work and lab experiments, to collect reliable data (qualitative and quantitative)

  • Students locate sites where invasives have taken root, potentially flagging them for future removal

Use appropriate SI units and appropriate equipment, including digital technologies, to systematically and accurately collect and record data

  • Students can collect photographic evidence of invasive species (with or without the use of suggested apps)
  • Students can measure soil properties with a testing kit

Processing and Analyzing Data and Information

Experience and interpret the local environment

  • Students explore their local community green spaces
  • Students explore their own campus, interpreting how to best incorporate indigenous plants into that space

Apply First Peoples perspectives and knowledge, other ways of knowing, and local knowledge as sources of information

  • A First Peoples guest will share the traditional uses of plants (and/or local expert)
  • Students will have the opportunity to taste some teas made with indigenous plants

Construct, analyze, and interpret graphs, models, and/or diagrams

  • Students will model their indigenous plant garden
  • Students will potentially model raised beds for construction and plant placement

Connect scientific explorations to careers in science

  • Students will have the opportunity to interact with professionals working in invasive species removal and potentially other experts and/or park officials

Consider social, ethical, and environmental implications of the findings from their own and others’ investigations

  • Students consider the implications of invasive species decreasing local biodiversity
  • Students potentially discover the impact of an environmentalist movement such as the Lower Mainland Green Team

Curricular Content Focus:

Land Use and Sustainability

soil quality

  • Students have the opportunity to test soil quality using a test kit

land use practices

  • Students discover how green spaces are actively managed
  • Students are introduced to First Peoples traditional land use practices

land management and personal choices

  • Students discover how green spaces are actively managed
  • Students are introduced to First Peoples traditional land use practices
  • Students discover the benefits of choosing to plant indigenous plants, and the danger of causing or ignoring the spread of invasive species

Global Environmental Changes

First Peoples perspectives, philosophies, and responsibilities
  • Students are introduced to First Peoples perspectives ideally through personal contact in the class or in the community. Resources are available if scheduling, finances etc. do not allow for this.
Clarification: all aspects of this unit are meant to develop a sense of the impacts of invasive species, an appreciation for indigenous species, and the potential impacts active management can have on sustainability.
Core Competencies

Core Competencies:


Highlighting applicable curricular
competencies and content


Evidence for selection, generated with
input from sample “I” statements in curricular draft documents



1.      Connect and
engage with others (to share and develop ideas)

·        Students work in
groups and as a class to catalogue and remove invasives

·        Students work
together to build an indigenous plant garden

2.       Acquire, interpret and present information (include

3.      Collaborate to
plan, carry out and review constructions and activities

·        Students
collaborate to plan and carry out the building of an indigenous plant garden

4.       Explain, recount and reflect on experience and


Creative Thinking

1.       Novelty and value

2.       Generating ideas

3.       Developing ideas

Critical Thinking

1.       Analyze and critique

2.       Question and investigate

3.       Develop and design

· Students
collaborate to plan the rational arrangement of plants in their indigenous plant garden


Positive Personal and Cultural Identity

1.      Relationships and
cultural contexts

·        Students have the
opportunity of interacting with a First Peoples elder, or a local indigenous-plant

2.       Personal values and choices

3.       Personal strengths and abilities

Personal Awareness and

1.       Self-determination

2.       Self-regulation

3.      Well-being

·        Physical
activities, and a connection to local nature promote the well-being of the individual
and community

Social Responsibilities

1.       Contributing to community and caring for the

2.       Solving problems in peaceful ways

3.       Valuing diversity

4.       Building relationships

First Peoples Principles:

Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.

  • This unit makes a real contribution to the community by removing invasive plants, and providing habitat for indigenous pollinators

Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).

  • This unit takes a holistic approach by addressing the rationale for an indigenous plant garden and critically analyzing typical gardening practices
  • Students have an opportunity to reflect on their experiences as part of their final interview
  • Experiential activities include invasive species removal as well as the building and maintenance of the garden

Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions.

  • Students may recognize how their efforts can make a difference to their local ecology

Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities.

  • Students participate in intergenerational learning when they work with volunteers in invasive species removal, welcome a guest speaker from the First Nations community or a local indigenous-plant expert etc.

Learning recognizes the role of indigenous knowledge.

  • Students revisit what plants they want to grow based on the knowledge passed on by the local indigenous-plant expert of First Nation’s guest

Learning involves patience and time.

  • Gardening is intricately tied to time as it relates to seasons, growing, and maintenance

Teaching Strategies:

Teaching Strategies

A sampling of some of the teaching strategies used in this unit.



Slide Presentation

Utilized to bring continuity with the opening housekeeping slide. A variety of aesthetic designs and software are brought to bear including Photoshop and Illustrator.

Video Presentation

Curated video clips facilitate learning and offer a change of medium.


Summative assessment interview. Student has access to their unit materials in order to demonstrate learning supported by guiding questions. Other non-formal interviews can be used to formatively assess student learning.


Brainstorming with FreeMind software also produces a digital record of formative assessment.

Walk and Talk

Students participate in a nature walk in which conversation and observations are guided by the teacher and by peer interactions. Can be used to prepare students for invasive species removal.

Guest Speaker

While the unit can operate without students interacting with guest teachers and volunteer groups, that is only in the interest of adaptability. The philosophical underpinnings of this unit mandate that students should be able to connect with members of the community such as a First Peoples elder or an indigenous-plant expert, environmentalist volunteer groups (ie. Fraser Valley Green Team), parent volunteers etc.

Hands-on Learning

Students handle tools and plants with their hands, learning valuable skills in terms of ecological management.


Formative Assessment

A sampling of some of the formative assessment strategies used in this unit.



Anecdotal Assessment

Can be derived from notes taken during instructional downtime – holistic in the sense that these assessments may be academic, based on engagement, behaviour and other relevant information. Anecdotal assessment can also be derived from in-class interactions… these may suggest missing content, need for review, or requiring positive reinforcement.


FreeMind digital brainstorms saved for later reference. Can be revised to show growth in conceptual knowledge.

Portfolio Materials

The planning sketches, reflective writing, and research ephemera that coalesce into the portfolio optionally referenced in the summative assessment – these materials can be used throughout the unit to gauge student understanding, motivation etc.

Summative Assessment

An outline of the summative assessment strategy used in this unit.



Portfolio-based Interview

A portfolio-based interview unit assessment is a conversation between the student and the instructor which establishes their content knowledge of the unit, while the student describes the activities (esp. competency based) they completed. The interaction is no thesis defense, if students are struggling, they can receive ample prompts. It is my experience that for some students, this is an excellent opportunity to scaffold their knowledge, meaning that even this “summative” assessment may not be truly summative for every student, but another opportunity for formative assessment.

The interview mark is agreed upon by student and interviewer and is weighted by:

  • Knowledge demonstrated verbally and/or through their portfolio
  • Deeper learning demonstrated verbally and/or through their portfolio
  • Quality of the portfolio materials and creativity (where applicable)
  • Individual circumstances of the student



My Favourite Media Resources

These resources may or may not appear in the lesson plans themselves: