Summer | Soil: Pre-K-Kindergarten

Roots: Nurturing a Solid Foundation

Summary: We cannot always see them, but all plants have roots. Some are buried deep in the dirt. Others, such as tree roots, can be seen wending their way around the yard. Gardeners will have a chance to carefully (and gently) see what lies below the soil.  

Pre-Visit Planning: 

  • Gather: Magnifying glass, shovel, one piece of cream, orange, and green construction paper, scissors, glue, bucket, and water
  • Explore: Roots by Frida Kahlo: Can you find the roots in this picture? Do you have roots?
  • Read: Plant Plumbing: A book about roots and stems by Susan Blackaby, Illustrated by Charlene Delage

In the Garden: 

The first job a seed has to do after it is planted is to grow roots. Roots work like the foundation of a building, anchoring the plant into the ground so that it doesn’t blow over in a storm. Roots also work like a straw, sucking up the nutrients and water in the soil that a plant needs to grow. 


-Dig up a weed or other plant that is not growing where it should. Gently flatten the roots on a piece of paper. 

-What do you see?

-Can you trace a root pattern into the dirt next to the plant? 

-Are the roots wet or dry?

-What color are they? Are they the same color as the leaves?

Questions to Explore:

-Where do you think we should look for roots? 

-Do people have roots? Do animals?

-Compare things above ground, such as rakes and shovels, to trees and plants. What do you notice? Be sure to compare things above and below the soil, introducing your gardener to new words. 


  • Wander the garden to see what parts of plants you can see. You might want to use your magnifying glass to look closer at the things you find. 
  • Carrots are a type of edible root. Use your scissors to cut a carrot from the orange paper and some green stems. Glue them to your paper. 
  • Next, dig up some dirt and put it in your bucket. Add a little water to create mud. Mix it all up and enjoy the muddy fun! 
  • When you’re ready, add approximately two tablespoons of glue and mix some more. 
  • Cover the root (orange part) of your picture with the dirt. Remember, most roots grow underground and the leaves grow above ground

Beyond the Garden | Sprout a Sweet Potato!

  • Grab an organic sweet potato, three toothpicks, and a glass. 
  • Poke the toothpicks into the sweet potato around the middle and set it into the glass. The toothpicks will keep the sweet potato out of the water. 
  • Fill the glass until the lower quarter of the sweet potato is surrounded by water. 
  • Over the next few weeks, watch what happens. Some roots might start to grow. 
  • Keep your potato on a warm windowsill and replenish the water. When roots arrive, your potato is ready to make a return trip to the garden to be planted!

Continue Exploring | Supporting Materials

Note for Parents:
Each lesson suggests you explore a piece of artwork and read a specific book with your child. The artwork and books are easily available for view with an online search. However, these suggestions are not necessary to complete the lessons.

Guiding Principles


Learning, though not always visible, is always happening. The lessons are designed using inquiry as a base. Rather than “right answers” be more concerned with asking good questions.


Things may not go as planned. The lessons are designed to be used in whatever way works best for you. You can use all of the lesson or just pull a piece out of it.


Planting and cultivating a garden is believing in possibility. The lessons are designed to generate excitement about the future.


Each lesson includes a way to take the learning out into the community for more learning and more connection.


When a young child’s innate curiosity is unleashed in a garden the possibilities are endless. Any topic is open for exploration.


You will get dirty. There will be bugs.