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Courtyard Blitz

Courtyard Blitz

Unit Summary

Change constantly occurs to us and all around us. Why and how do these changes occur? What makes living things thrive? In this unit, students explore the needs of living things, focusing on plants in particular. Students design and create a sustainable garden within their school. Research-sharing and collaborative decision-making enables students to make informed choices and work together in this cooperative, practical project. A "Garden Tea Party" is the culminating event for this unit, where feedback from visitors is sought, and students consider how they will sustain the garden.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    How do we see change?
  • Unit Questions
    What do living things need to change?
    How do we create change?
    How can we measure change?
  • Content Questions
    What do living things need?
    What happens to living things when change occurs?
    How do living things grow?
    How can we plan for our garden?
    How can we make our garden?
    How do we tell others about change?

Assessment Processes

View how assessment is used in this unit plan. These assessments help students and teachers set understandable goals, monitor student progress, provide feedback, assess thinking, performance and products and reflect on learning throughout the activities.

Prerequisite Skills

Students' Prior Knowledge

  • Students' scientific knowledge will be assessed at beginning of unit through questioning and KWL and the formative Gauging Needs Assessment(doc).
  • Students have been exposed to instruction writing. Report writing is a new genre. Using presentation and publication applications are new skills.
  • Students will need to have an understanding of what a garden is and knowledge of living things.
  • Parents help to assist with gardening skills and safety during activities. Teacher aide to assist when creating publications and multimedia presentations. Use of Interactive whiteboard to demonstrate skills.

Teachers’ Professional Learning

  • Knowledge of local, native and suitable plants. Aboriginal bush tucker.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Teaching and Learning Activities

Stage 1 – Introducing the Subject of Change - Within Us and All Around Us
Teacher ascertains students’ prior knowledge concerning the Essential Question, How do we see change? 
Activities could include:

  • Brainstorming the changes which occur in ourselves and in our daily lives.
  • Brainstorming changes which can be seen through the classroom window including those to trees and plants.
  • Venn Diagram to differentiate between changes which occur in humans changes which occur in plants.
  • Completing the Gauging Needs Assessment(doc)(formative).

Teacher assists students to expand prior knowledge of how and why living things around us grow and change, and the differences between living and non-living things. 

Students and teacher address the questions:

  • What do living things need?
  • How do living things grow?

Activities for this stage could include:

  • A KWL for students to identify what they know about living things.
  • Slip writing - using a slip of paper to draw/write facts they know about what living things need.
  • Teacher facilitating the sorting of the slips into different categories.
  • A Venn Diagram to ascertain common features and the interactions of living things.
  • Students consolidating their knowledge by completing a sorting activity (doc) in which they drop and drag pictures into a table of plant, animal, mineral to identify which is living and non-living.
  • Using learning objects to build on prior knowledge and prepare students for the next stage:

Stage 2 – Consolidating Information about Plants
Students explore how species of plants can differ, how different plants look, grow and behave through:

  • Create a worksheet to help students to research and label the parts of a plant.
  • Listing types of plants on a plant chart.
    • herb, vegetable, fern, cactus, flower, fruit, shrub etc.
    • native plants, bush tucker, medicinal, attract animals
    • dangerous plants – thorns, sting, sap
  • Making leaf prints and rubbings of a variety of different leaves and seeds. Students sort, classify and hypothesise about why they might be different and what sort of plants they may have come from.
  • Providing a word processed document that includes clipart or digital photography of different types of plants eg: shrubs, trees, flowers & ferns or different environments eg: rainforest, desert, gardens, bush etc.
  • Arranging the pictures to demonstrate an understanding of the different types of plants and environments. Students drag and drop the pictures into the table.
  • Playing a card game in which students are each provided with one of a pair of cards for each plant. Students hypothesise about the identity of the plants with one student holding the plant image card and the other holding the description card.

What do living things need to change?
What happens to living things when change occurs?
Activities could include:

The information from the activities above and on a whole class basis could be recorded in a blog through the Learning Place http://eq2.janison.com/eq/default.asp*. The blog can be used as a whole class culminating activity to consolidate information or used as a reflective discussion. Adding to the blog over the course of the whole project will demonstrate the knowledge students have gained and built on.

Stage 3 - Gardens – Researching Gardens and Plants
Teacher has student’s access resources and view a variety of texts to extend knowledge about gardens and plants.
These may include:

  • Visiting gardens and observing animals and plants.
  • Viewing media clips about gardens for example from television programmes such as Better Homes & Gardens, Backyard Blitz, Burkes Backyard. Magazines and from websites such as ABC Gardening.
  • Inviting guest speakers for example nursery, indigenous, groundsman, parents.
  • Students interviewing and questioning the guest speakers about plants.
  • Researching information about various plants using websites such as:
  • Teacher implements a whole class activity where students create a concept map about gardens.
  • Using the words from the concept map as a literacy tool, students and teacher identify key words and how to use these words in sentence construction.
  • From the information researched students select a plant.
  • Using he words developed from the concept map and a template, students compose 5 Facts About (Your Plant).
  • Whole class compiling a flowchart of growing things and making comparisons of different variables.
  • Revisit the blog and continue to add information through the information gathering process to build and consolidate knowledge.

Stage 4 - Designing the Garden
Students and teacher address the questions:

  • How do we create change?
  • How can we plan for our garden?
  • How do we tell others about change?

To assist them in exploring these questions, young children will need to first consider more basic issues such as:

  • How do we solve problems?
  • How can we tell others about our ideas?
  • What shapes are gardens?
  • What symbols and shapes can we use on a map?
  • What makes a good garden?
  • What will be appropriate and look attractive in a garden?
  • How can we share our plans with others?

Teacher guides the planning and design of the garden through:

  • Writing a letter to the Principal requesting permission to create a garden in the courtyard.
  • Exploring garden design through viewing a variety of garden plans. Try searching for 'Chelsea Flower Show' and 'Australia's Best Garden' on Better Homes and Gardens*.
  • Compiling a garden survey (doc) and surveying people to evaluate other gardens in the school and community
  • Graphing the results to establish a preferred garden design.
  • Exploring symbolic representations used in garden planning. Student’s make choices about specific symbols to be included in the class plan.
  • Modifying, illustrating and using a variety of symbols to match the mode of construction.
  • Groups of students collaborating in the garden design phase (including maps, icons, to represent their ideas for the courtyard garden. eg: construction, trough play, computer based). Search for DIY Garden Design Kit on Better Homes and Gardens*.
  • Whole class participating in the planning and designing phase by using the data from the garden evaluations and students planning ideas. The class makes collective decisions about the features of the courtyard garden.
  • Revisiting the KWL and blog to update knowledge and questions.

Stage 5 – Creating the Garden
Teacher and students address the question:

  • How can we make our garden?

To assist them in exploring these questions, young children will need to first consider more basic issues such as:

  • How do we make our plans work?
  • What jobs need to be done?
  • How do we work as a team?

Teacher guides students to action their plan in planting the garden through:

  • Listing items needed to plant a garden eg garden tools, seeds, plants, gloves, water.
  • Creating a collaborative multimedia presentation on how to start a garden.
  • Discussing and evaluating the class multimedia presentation to understanding of the process of planting and growing plants.
  • Groups of students creating a growing (plants) (ppt) multimedia presentation to consolidate understanding of the process for their particular chosen plant.
  • Researching various plant tag instructions.
  • Modeling and writing how to care for their chosen plant.
  • Writing a plant tag  - students describe plant, when and where to plant, how to care for the plant. Students should also draw on the 5 Facts About (Your Plant), which they compiled in Stage 5.
  • Conferencing to gain individual direction and understanding about their knowledge and product.
  • Following the garden design plan students plant the seeds from the information compiled.
  • Making a class plan for maintaining the garden including roles and responsibilities.

Stage 6 – Showcasing the Garden and Evaluating Its Success
Students and teacher address the questions:

  • How can we measure change?
  • How do we see change? (essential question)

Teacher assists students to compile a plant journal (doc) to assist evaluation of the project and individual student learning.

Students can also do the individual plant journal as a blog through the Learning Place  http://eq2.janison.com/eq/default.asp*

  • Recording daily observations in the journal including written and digital photography.
  • Maintaining the garden and continuing to take observations and make entries into the journal.
  • Charting the growth of plants from the plant journal.
  • Individual journal discussions for formative assessment.
  • Generating discussion where student are able to engage in prediction utilising gained knowledge eg: What would happen if the plant didn’t get water? What would happen if the plant didn’t get sunlight? etc.
  • Conducting an assessment of your plant eg; Is your plant wilting? What do you need to do?
  • A cloze activity on factual writing on plants.
  • Having students state how their plant has grown and changed and include modifications they would make.
  • Relating to the essential question to the garden – How do we see change? How has the garden grown and changed? How has their plant grown and changed?
  • Discussing and evaluating the class garden by completing individual rating scale and suggestions.

Culmination of the Courtyard Blitz Project
Teacher and students organise a "Garden Tea Party" for the school community.

  • Students design and write invitations to invite the school community and other local community partners to the Garden Tea Party.
  • Students present the garden to their peers and visitors and ask them to complete the survey.
  • Discussing results and comparing to the prior survey.
  • Finalising KWL to review questions asked and facts learnt about plants.

Throughout this project the teacher and students may collectively compile a Celebration of Seeing Change Website (doc) which could include student groups’ 5 Facts About (Your Plant), students’ Plant Journals and details of the Garden Tea Party.

Accommodation for Diverse Needs

Students with special needs

  • Templates to guide writing tasks, sentence beginnings, writing cards to follow when typing, teacher aide support writing facts, instructions, checklists for multimedia and publication tasks, interactive whiteboard for manipulation plant label.

English as a second language (ESL) students

  • ESL students develop skills through visual and image literacy and are appropriately supported through language teacher facilitation and collaboration with teaching partners; a variety of ways available to demonstrate their learning are optimised with support personnel and help of peers.

Gifted Students

  • Higher level text for reading, find own information texts in library or internet, write fact sheet for both a plant and animal.

Indigenous Groups

  • Invite local indigenous leaders to bring in and show different bush tucker foods.


Neva Macmichael participated in the Intel Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project.  A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

© The State of Queensland (Department of Education, Training and the Arts) 2006 (doc).
*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Courtyard Blitz

At a Glance

Year Level: Year 2

Subjects: Science, SOSE, Mathematics, HPE, Technology, English

Time Needed: Integrated unit to be implemented over a whole term