Around the World in Your Backyard
summaryLearn more about different countries by planting a small herb garden and making authentic ethnic meals. Have your child keep a gardening journal to track the herb's growth progress.
- Reading Is Fundamental
- Arts and Crafts, Cooking, Cultural Heritage
- Meal, Play
Materials: Seeds, planting soil, watering can, spade (gardening materials depend on which herbs you'll grow), cookbook, journal
Activity description: Talk with your middle schooler about a country he or she'd like to learn more about --maybe France, Italy, or Mexico. Then, using cookbooks or the Internet, find some recipes from the country that use fresh herbs. Your child can choose an herb (or a selection) to grow in your backyard. For example, think of rosemary for France, basil or oregano for Italy, and cilantro for Mexico. Have a couple different countries in mind, since the herbs you choose will be somewhat determined by the climate you live in. Take a trip to a gardening center with your middle schooler. Together, pick out one or two kitchen herbs that will grow well in your climate. Talk with an employee to learn about which herbs grow well in the summer in a limited amount of space. With the employee, decide if you want to create a small outside garden or grow the herbs in small pots. Some popular summer herbs that grow from seeds include basil (plant April through July), oregano, and thyme. All three of these often grow well in pots. Using the instructions on the seed packet and the garden center employees advice, have your child plant the seeds. If he or she wants to learn more, your local library and the Internet have plenty of information. Over the next several weeks, it will be your child's responsibility to water and weed the plants and make sure they get the appropriate amount of sunlight. Have your child keep a daily or weekly garden journal to track progress and growth. Observe the plants changing size, color, and smells. Once the plants are ready to be harvested (there may be several harvest points), have your child pick out a couple simple recipes from the chosen country that use the fresh herbs. Together, make your family a meal that your child truly had a part in. While you haven't actually traveled, your child has taken the first steps in experiencing the culture of another country.