SPaRK – A Patch from Scratch

by Gaye Braiding – teacher at Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre and NSW Schoolhouse Museum of Public Education

Resource overview

Set in a suburban backyard, ‘A Patch from Scratch’ by Megan Forward describes a family’s journey in transforming their yard into a productive garden in which they grow and produce their own food from paddock to plate. Written through the voice of a young child, the children are actively involved and help in the design, planning and construction of the chicken coop and garden beds. Constantly researching information and problem solving challenges, the family make their own compost, propagate seeds, care for seedlings and sustainably manage pests. Drawings, labelled sketches, maps and notes are used by the children to record their observations and document changes in plants whilst the detailed illustrations in the text provide visual ‘how to’ guides of the processes involved in vegetable gardening and hands-on activities for children in food production. Concluding with a harvest feast shared with friends and family, this picture book presents a closed loop approach to local food production – seed to seed for plant growth and returning organic waste into the garden.

Educational significance

Reinforcing the design and production process, and demonstrating physical activity, healthy eating and personal wellbeing, ‘A Patch from Scratch’ supports the science and technology Living world strand and the PDHPE Healthy, safe and active lifestyles strand. It strongly supports the food and fibre content of the science and technology syllabus, particularly for Early Stage 1 to Stage 2.

With a focus on gardening, the text promotes outdoor learning in an authentic context and the enjoyment and satisfaction of physical and collaborative activities working towards a common purpose. Modelling closed loop systems and organic gardening principles, ‘A Patch from Scratch’ also strongly supports the learning across the curriculum priority of sustainability.

Suggestions for using this text

Find a leafy spot outside in the school grounds to share the book with the students. After reading, use small sharing circles for students to share text-to-self connections of personal experiences of gardening, growing food and eating freshly picked produce. Revisit the illustrations and list the fruits and vegetables grown in the backyard garden. Make text-to-world connections of those found in fruit and vegetable aisles and shops and their uses. Make connections to nonfiction and fiction texts about vegetable gardening, such as ‘Oliver’s Vegetables’ by Vivian French and Alison Bartlett.

Explore the school’s vegetable gardens and look for living and non-living elements described in the text. Provide guided tasting or scrunch and sniffing of some edible leaves and herbs in the school’s gardens. Pick some mint, lemon-grass or lemon verbena to add to students’ water bottles as an infusion.

Sequence the design and production process used by the family in creating their patch. What did the family want to achieve? What steps did they take to achieve it? What skills did the various family member use in building their productive garden? Using process drama strategies, guide students to step into the story and create freeze frames of favourite tasks and activities represented in the illustrations.

Examine the double-page spread of the shared harvest meal. Name the foods on the table. What would the people see, smell, taste, feel and hear while sitting at the table? Role-play conversations between the family members and friends while sharing their meal.

Use the text as a stimulus and guide for planning and producing an edible garden at school.

Teaching activities

  1. How can we grow our own fruit and vegies at school?

    Using the design and production process in ‘A Patch from Scratch’ as a guide, list the research, planning, producing and implementing steps to establish and manage a food garden at school. Work through the process from conception to harvest.

  2. Where can we put our vegie patch?

    Recall the needs of plants outlined in the text. Take the students outside to examine the features of the school’s existing kitchen gardens or to consider suitable locations to establish a class food garden. Research images of school food gardens. These can vary from re-used containers and wicking beds on a veranda, to raised garden beds or plots dug into the school grounds.

    Nominate vegetables and herbs for planting from the Gardenate planting guide and research planting requirements. Older students can create a grid map of the garden beds and use a legend to plot positions of plantings.

    Raised garden beds Raised vegetable garden beds at Oxley Park Public School, 2019

  3. What is compost?

    Recall the ingredients and layers of the compost system described in ‘A Patch from Scratch’. Take the students outside to investigate the school’s compost bins and worm farms. Shovel a scoop of each layer of compost separately onto a tarpaulin for students to closely examine. Students smell and touch the bottom soil layer – the compost. They use sticks to separate the decomposing layers and magnifiers to examine the living and non-living components. Students draw and label their observations.

  4. How can we propagate seeds?

    Re-read the pages in ‘A Patch from Scratch’ that describe the family’s visit to the plant nursery and the method used to propagate snow-pea seeds. Follow the instructions on the video and fact sheet Newspaper pots (2:53) to make newspaper plant pots using folded newspaper rolled around a narrow container. Working outside, students fill their pots with seed raising mix, plant two seeds per pot, label and water them. Place the pots in trays in a sunny outdoor spot, or in a greenhouse, watering regularly. Students observe and record stages of growth using a plant diary or garden journal. Once they have grown into seedlings, the whole pot can be planted directly into the ground.

    newspaper pots Seedlings propagated in hand-made newspaper pots, St Clair Public School, 2019

  5. How does the garden make us feel?

    Revisit the illustrations in ‘A Patch from Scratch’. How did the family members feel about their garden? What did they enjoy doing alone and together? How did the garden make them feel? Take the students outside into the school’s vegetable garden or into a natural area of the school grounds. Students find their own spot in the garden and sit still and silently for about five minutes, looking around them, listening to sounds and reflecting on how it makes them feel. They use a Y chart to sketch or write what they hear and see and how they feel.

  6. How can we prepare vegie dip cups as a healthy snack?

Harvest vegetables and herbs from the garden and use with vegetables such as celery, carrots, capsicum and cucumber to make a healthy snack of vegetables with hummus dip. Name the vegetables and their parts and discuss fruits and vegetables as healthy food choices. To prepare the vegie dip cups, place a scoop of hummus into each student’s re-usable cup. Students add one of each of the pre-cut salad vegetable fingers standing upright in it and sprinkle some cut herbs on top. Seated in groups or a circle, students eat their vegie cups, reflecting on the flavours and textures. Compost organic waste for re-use in the garden.

Syllabus links

Early Stage 1 Science and technology – Living world

A student:

  • develops solutions to an identified need STe-2DP-T
  • explores the characteristics, needs and uses of living things STe-3LW-ST (ACTDEK003).

Early Stage 1 PDHPE – Healthy, safe and active lifestyles

A student:

  • identifies actions that promote health, safety, wellbeing and physically active spaces PDe-7 (ACPPS006).

Stage 1 Science and technology – Living world

A student:

  • uses materials, tools and equipment to develop solutions for a need or opportunity ST1-2DP-T
  • identifies how plants and animals are used for food and fibre products ST1-5LW-T (ACTDEK003).

Stage 1 PDHPE – Healthy, safe and active lifestyles

A student:

  • explores actions that help make home and school healthy, safe and physically active spaces PD1-7 (ACPMP030).

Experimenting

Produce compost. Research a recipe and apply the principles of ADAM (aliveness, diversity, aeration, moisture). Dig the compost through the soil in the school’s kitchen gardens prior to planting.

Design and produce a sustainable planter pot. Re-purpose containers or objects for growing food plants. Discuss the sustainability benefits of re-using and re-purposing things. Establish the design criteria relating to size, volume, portability, soil-holding and water drainage. Students plant fruit and vegetable seeds or seedlings into their re-purposed pots, select suitable locations and care for them, solving problems as they arise, such as managing pests and providing plant supports.

Syllabus links

Stage 1 – Science and technology

A student:

  • ST1-2DP-T uses materials, tools and equipment to develop solutions for a need or opportunity (ACTDEK003)
  • ST1-4LW-S describes observable features of living things and their environments.

Stage 1 – Mathematics

A student:

  • MA1-9MG measures, records, compares and estimates lengths and distances using uniform informal units, metres and centimetres.

References and further reading

Ancona, G. (2015). It’s our garden: From seed to harvest in a school garden. Mass. USA: Candlewick.

Carle, E. (2015). The tiny seed. Simon Spotlight. (First published 1970).

Environmental and zoo education centres (EZEC). State of New South Wales (Department of Education), 2019.

Forward, M. (2018). A patch from scratch. Penguin Books Australia.

Gordon, L. (2018). A patch from scratch by Megan Forward – Teachers’ notes. Penguin Teachers Academy.

Healthy Kids (2019). Live life well @ school. State of New South Wales (Department of Education).

How does your garden grow? State of New South Wales (Department of Education), 2019.

Kitchen gardening for sustainability and wellbeing K-6. State of New South Wales (Department of Education), 2019.

Mathematics K-10 syllabus. (2012). © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2019.

Messner, K. & Neal, C.S. (2015). Up in the garden and down in the dirt. USA: Chronicle Books.

Personal development, health and physical education K-10 syllabus. (2018) © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2019.

Science and technology K-6 syllabus. (2017). © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2019.

Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.

Sustainability action process – Kitchen gardens. State of New South Wales (Department of Education), 2019.

Sustainability – Kitchen gardens. State of New South Wales (Department of Education), 2019.

Zamorano, A. & Vivas, J. (2003). Let’s eat. New York: Scholastic.

How to cite this article – Braiding, G. (2019). SPaRK – A Patch from Scratch. Scan 38(6).

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