The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

Planting the Wild Garden

Planting the Wild Garden
Written by Kathryn Osebold Galbraith and Illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
Published in 2011 by Peachtree. ISBN. 978-1-56145-563-8
All Ages
Beginning with the familiar concept of gardeners planting seeds in rows, Kathryn Osebold Galbraith’s nonfiction picture book extends children’s understanding of how plants spread and grow in wild areas, featuring different means of seed dispersal. The poetic text makes wonderful use of onomatopoeia, dramatizing the roles that wind, plant structure, animals, water and people play in helping seeds to travel to new locations in which to grow. “Under the afternoon sun, the pods of the Scotch broom grow hot and dry. Snap! Snap! Out pop their seeds, like popcorn from a pan.” Equally engaging are Wendy Halperin Anderson’s watercolor images. Double page spreads feature larger images from the text that are surrounded by small squares. The images in the small squares relate to the larger images and expand a detail, show change over time, or incorporate varying perspectives. This is a beautiful book from all angles – the creative use of language, images, and book design, including wonderful seed strewn end paper all invite multiple readings and multiple opportunities to learn about the wonderful interconnectedness of the natural world.
Teaching Invitations
Grades PreK – 2
  • Seed Collection and Shared Writing. Go on a seed hunt! Take a walk around the school yards, on a nearby trail, or in a local park to collect different types of seeds. If this is not possible, invite families to hunt for seeds to send in to school. Identify each seed and talk about how the seed might travel to a new location. Work together to compose a class big book featuring information about the seeds that you have found. Be sure to make the seeds you have collected part of the illustrations for the book.
  • Pocket Chart Matching. Use the websites below to find and print out images of different types of seeds. Create symbols or use words to represent the different ways that seeds travel: wind, water, animals, people. Place the seed images and methods of travel cards in a pocket chart and invite your students to match each seed up to a method of travel. Ask students to talk about how the characteristics of the seed (shape, size, texture) provide clues as to how they are likely to travel.
  • Dramatic Play. Invite students to try out the movement of different seeds. You could do this with a rereading of Planting the Wild Garden, asking students to demonstrate the movements described in the text. You might even choose to create a brief play about seed dispersal. Students could make large images of seeds to wear as costumes, co-write a script, plan movements, and then perform their informative play for an audience.
Grades 1 – 8
  • Onomatopoeia / Figurative Language in Nonfiction. In Planting the Wild Garden, Galbraith makes frequent use of onomatopoeia (sound words) and similes and metaphors for poetic effect. April Pulley Sayre also uses this technique in Trout are Made of Trees as does JoAnn Early Macken in Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move. Collect examples of onomatopoeia and similies or metaphors from these and other nonfiction texts. Invite students to try out this technique to enliven their own nonfiction writing.
  • Comparing Nonfiction Texts / Examining Author’s Choices. Read Planting the Wild Garden along with Seeds by Ken Robbins and Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Early Macken, two additional picture books that discuss seed dispersal. As you read the texts, ask children to identify important pieces of information (what they are learning) and list their responses on chart paper. Discuss the variations on the content that appear across the texts. Talk about the choices that author’s make as they write; nonfiction writers must select which content related to their chosen topic to include and they make choices about how to organize and present the information. You could also discuss how each of these authors have chosen to begin and end their texts. Be sure to also include a discussion of the role of the illustrations and photographs in these picture books.
  • Seed Art. In the links below, you’ll find a YouTube video in which an artist describes her process of creating images with seeds. Ask parents to send in different types of dried beans and rice and ask students to collect seeds around the school yard and at home so that students can try this method of artistic expression.
  • Life Cycles / Relationships in an Ecosystem. Galbraith concludes Planting the Wild Garden by noting the role that we all play in creating and sustaining our environment. Pair this text with April Pulley Sayre’s Trout are Made of Trees to bolster a discussion of interrelationships in an ecosystem.
  • Multiple Images / Perspectives. Wendy Anderson Halperin’s illustrations for this nonfiction picture book are unique and fascinating. Take some time to study these pictures with your students. Use a document camera to project the images if you have one available to you. Students will notice that Halperin frequently uses a large image related to the text surrounded by small square images that expand a detail and incorporate various perspectives. Invite your student to try this technique either with drawings or with digital images. Students might especially enjoy using digital cameras (perhaps the camera built into the iPad2) to juxtapose images of a single object, related objects, or objects in different stages from many different angles. Popplet Lite is a free app that would facilitate this creative process.
Critical Literacy
Grades 3 – 8
  • Invasive Species. As the text suggests, people play a role in encouraging the growth of plants in new locations. Sometimes this is accidental, as in the case of hitchhiker seeds, but sometimes, it is through deliberate cultivation efforts. Sometimes this is beneficial for the environment, and sometimes the movement of one species of plant to a new location can be harmful. Learn more about invasive species and their impact by visiting the National Invasive Species Information Center online. Invite a local ecologist to visit your classroom to discuss the impact of invasive plant species in your area. Invite your students to express what they have learned in the form of a nonfiction picture book that uses the power of image and language as an advocacy tool.
Further Explorations
Online Resources
Author Website: Kathryn Osebold Galbraith
Illustrator Website: Wendy Anderson Halperin
The Great Plant Escape: All About Seeds
Science of Gardening
Seed Dispersal: How Seeds Spread
The Sustainable Table
The Edible Schoolyard
Farm to School
Seed Art: You Tube
Images of Seeds: Seed Dispersal
Nature on PBS: The Seedy Side of Plants
The Wonder of Seeds
National Invasive Species Information Center
In addition to the titles listed here, be sure to draw from the wonderful listing of additional titles in the back matter of Planting the Wild Garden.
Henderson, K. (2008). And the good brown earth. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
  • While Gram carefully cultivates her garden patch, Joe scatters his seeds to the wind. They return from a vacation to find both gardens flourishing in different ways.
Macken, J.E. (2008). Flip, float, fly: Seeds on the move. Ill. by P. Paparone. New York: Holiday House.
  • Poetic text and precise illustrations enhance this presentation of seed dispersal.
Richards, J. (2002). A fruit is a suitcase for seeds. Ill. by A. Hariton. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press.
  • An illustrated description of how fruits serve as a vehicle for seed dispersal.
Robbins, K. (2005). Seeds. New York: Atheneum.
  • This survey text describing seeds and seed dispersal methods includes fascinating close up photography of plants and their seeds.
Sayre, A.P. (2008). Trout are made of trees. Ill. by K. Endle. Cambridge, MA: Charlesbridge.
  • This intriguing title focuses on the life cycle of the trout while highlighting the interrelationships of an ecosystem.
Wellington, M. (2005). Zinnia’s flower garden. New York: Puffin.
  • Zinnia plans and plants a beautiful flower garden, sharing the fruits of her labors at a roadside stand. Images in the border help to describe the life cycle of a flower.
Wallace, N.E. (2004). Seeds! Seeds! Seeds! New York: Marshall Cavendish.
  • Buddy Bear receives a packet of seeds in the mail from his grandmother and consequently learns all about seeds and how they grow.

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.