“Peter Rabbit Garden”

Literature comes alive in the Peter Rabbit Garden. The life and times of Beatrix Potter will captivate your students; her books provide a delightful backdrop to garden learning. Children will emulate her art techniques creating fanciful portraits of plants and animals in the garden with watercolor paints and colored pencils. The children will be able to learn about garden tools and accessories, garden design, how to read a seed packet, make measurements, use a calendar, cook, chart and graph information, compare and describe seeds, use loupes, imagine Beatrix Potter’s life in 19th century England, as well as study and imitate her writing and illustrations. We’ll plant and harvest chamomile and make remedy tea that we’ll sip with brown bread and blackberries. We’ll also harvest all the vegetables we need to make a Peter Rabbit Stew: onions, French Beans, parsley, cabbage, carrots, and more. We’ll follow Peter’s path through Mr. McGregor’s garden — alert for overturned flowerpots, cucumber frames, and watering cans (still damp on the bottom) — not good places for little rabbits to hide. On other adventures in the garden, we’ll locate a currant bush, look for garden pests and friends, and perhaps find Peter’s missing jacket and shoes and make them into a scarecrow. And what about Peter’s cousin Benjamin Bunny? What did he find in the garden?


Fall Lessons

Ask children if they have ever read the story “Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter. What do they remember about this story? Share some information about Beatrix Potter:

“She was born in London, England in 1866. What do you think life was like in 1866? She did not have many friends as a child, but she had many pets, including frogs, newts, ferrets and even a pet bat. She also had two rabbits — the first was Benjamin, whom she described as “an impudent, cheeky little thing”, while the second was Peter, whom she took everywhere with her, even on the occasional outings, on a little lead. Potter would watch these animals for hours on end, sketching them. Gradually the sketches became better and better, developing her talents from an early age.”

Read Peter Rabbit to the children. Pause to highlight and discuss the various garden foods that are mentioned in the story. Why does Peter’s mother give him camomile tea? Why does Peter eat parsley? Discuss medicinal use of plants. Make a list of all the plants mentioned in the story.

Go outside with the children (in small groups) into the habitat garden. Stop first at the base of the Western Red Cedar. How is this like where Peter lives? Where do rabbits live? Also in the habitat area there is a red currant bush (currant buns and black currant bushes are referred to in the story.) Check on this bush regularly throughout the year to note the changes.

Next, go to the multicultural garden. How is this garden like Mr McGregor’s garden? Where is the tool shed? Go look in the tool shed. What tools are here that are also in the book? (Wheelbarrow, watering can, flowerpots, rake, hoe) Where could Peter hide in this garden? How is this garden different from Mr. McGregor’s garden? Hide some small shoes and a jacket with brass buttons for the children to find. (Make a scarecrow with the clothes and place it in the garden box.)

Look in the “Peter Rabbit” garden box. What vegetables do you recognize? Be sure to look around at the other vegetables growing in other boxes. Explain that last spring, another class planted this garden for them.

(Also, there might be some blackberries to harvest along the fence near the school parking lot.)

Bring in a selection of books written (and illustrated) by Beatrix Potter. Look carefully at the illustrations. Use the pictures as the basis of discussion. What do the children notice about the pictures? What do the the children like about the pictures? Why are they interesting? Are they realistic or fantastical? Why? Invite an artist-parent to visit the classroom to discuss the materials Beatrix Potter used to make her art. Have the children practice using the materials in the classroom before bringing the materials out to the garden for making art outdoors. Plan to visit the garden with drawing/painting materials over the course of the year.

In small groups, harvest what is growing in the garden. Because Peter ate all these vegetables uncooked, you might choose to do the same with the children (make a veggie plate) or, if you are feeling more ambitious, I recommend making Peter Rabbit Vegetable Stew, as Peter’s mother might have made. Eat it with brown bread.

Harvest the chamomile to make tea later in the winter.

Plant a cover crop in the garden box and put the garden to bed for winter.

Cooking With Peter Rabbit

Fall Menu
Mrs. Rabbit’s Vegetable Stew
Brown Bread

Winter Menu
Currant Buns
Chamomile Tea

Spring Menu
Peter Rabbit Salad


Winter Lessons

Begin with a campy skit based loosely on Jack and the Bean Stalk.

“The Magic Seeds.” This skit is a re-worked Jack and the Beanstalk. The following script is a just an outline, not necessarily to be followed word for word.

Jack and The Bean Seller should both wear hats or some funny clothes as costumes. Bean seller should have beans in his/her pocket.

Jack is coaxing (an imaginary) cow to market. He is pulling her along on a lead, encouraging her, “Come on, Bessie, Let’s go Bessie. We’ve got to get to the market!” A mysterious figure appears. He calls out to Jack, “Jack!” (who is surprised that man knows his name.) Jack stops with Bessie.

“That’s a nice looking cow you’ve got there.”

“Thank you.”

“May I ask where you are going with her?”

“I’m taking her to market. My mother told me to sell her and bring her the money so we can put food in our cupboard.”

“Hmmmm. Well, Jack. I might be able to help you out.”

“Really?”

“Well, yes. I’m actually on my way to market to buy a cow right now. I could offer you something for Bessie here that would save us both a trip, and make your mother very proud of you.”

“You’re going to give me some money for Bessie?”

“No, (laughs) not money. Something better than money.”

“Gold?”

“(laughs again) No, something better than gold. I’ll trade you some magic seeds.”

“Magic seeds? Really?”

“Yes, Jack. (Pulls seeds from his pocket) These are magic seeds. Plant these seeds in the ground and you and your mother will become rich beyond your wildest dreams!”

Jack, very excited, accepts the beans, and hands Bessie to the Bean Seller, who coaxes her away. Jack looks at the beans in his hand saying, “Wow! Magic beans! Mom is going to love this!” Then, he suddenly looks worried. Uh, oh. Maybe they aren’t magic. Could beans be magic? Oh, no. Mom is going to be mad! Jack turns to the children, “Do you think beans contain magic?”

Begin a conversation with the children about whether beans, or seeds in general, contain magic. What is inside a bean? Have you ever looked in a bean?

Explain that we are going to look inside a bean today. Distribute loupes. In a directed lesson, distribute lima beans that have been soaked overnight, one per child. Instruct the kids to draw the outside of the bean. Label the “seed coat.” Now have the children carefully open their seeds, trying not to break off any part of the seed. Look at the inside of the seed. Ask kids, “What do you notice in the seed? What do you thing those things you see are?” Discuss and label the parts inside the seed, including the cotyledons, the baby leaf, and the baby root. Draw a large, labeled diagram to help kids identify the parts.

Now we are going to plant some seeds in a way that will allow us to watch the baby shoot and the baby root grow. Use damp brown paper towel and clear plastic cups. Line the cup with paper towel. Set a lima bean between the towel and the cup. Keep paper damp and within a week, the seed should sprout. Talk about how the seed changes over time. We will be planting beans in soil in the next few weeks as well. Continue to water, observe and discuss the seeds every day.

Explain that we are going to look inside a bean today, looking for magic. Distribute loupes. Distribute lima beans that have been soaked overnight, one per child. Instruct the kids to draw the outside of the bean. Label the “seed coat.” Now have the children carefully open their seeds, trying not to break off any part of the seed. Look at the inside of the seed. Ask kids, “What do you notice in the seed? What do you thing those things you see are?” Discuss and label the parts inside the seed, including the cotyledons, the baby leaf, and the baby root. Draw a large, labeled diagram to help kids identify the parts.

Ask children if they can remember any of the plants growing in Mr McGregor’s garden. Make a list of the plants.

Looking at seeds:

Now we are going to look at some seeds that might grow Mr. Mcgregor’s garden. These seeds are small, so we are going to look at them with a hand lens. Do you think the seeds from different plants will look the same or different from each other? Let’s see. Distribute one kind of seed, then another. Choose any two seeds that have easy distinctions. Have the children look at the seeds with the hand lenses. (You may need to give a short lesson on how to use a hand lens.) How are the two seeds different from each other? After examining and discussing the two seeds, distribute the handout “Seeds That Might Grow in Mr Mcgregor’s Garden.” Have the children glue the seeds in the appropriate boxes. The box “information about the seed” is a place to note when and how to plant the seed.

Seeds That Might Grow in Mr Mcgregor’s Garden

 Name of Seed  Seed  Information About the Seed
 lettuce
 bean
 chamomile
 radish
 cucumber
 parsley
 onion

Make currant buns. Serve with Chamomile tea.

CURRANT BUNS FROM MRS. RABBIT’S KITCHEN

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water
3 eggs
1/2 c. butter, melted, or butter
3/4 tsp. salt
4 c. sifted flour
1/2 c. evaporated milk
1/2 c. sugar
FILLING:
3 tsp. melted butter
1 c. currants (sm. raisins)
1/4 c. sugar

Dissolve yeast in warm water. In large bowl, beat eggs, stir in melted shortening, evaporated milk, sugar, salt and yeast. Stir in flour a cup at a time, blending well after each addition. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.Let dough stand until room temperature, about 3 hours. Divide dough in half and turn out on floured board. Knead a few times to make dough easy to handle. Roll out into a rectangle about 8×16 inch, 1/8 inch thick.Brush with melted butter, then sprinkle evenly with half the sugar and raisins. Roll as for jelly roll and cut into 1 inch slices. Brush (or dip) each slice into melted butter, then into the remaining sugar and currants.Place sugared side up in greased muffin pans, or arrange in pie tins. Allow to raise one hour. Bake at 375 degrees 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 30 rolls.Chamomile Tea

1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of dried chamomile flowers
lemon juice
honey

Method

  • Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan.
  • Sprinkle the flowers onto the water and boil for a further half a minute with the saucepan lid on.
  • Remove from the heat and stand for another minute.
  • Serve with honey and a little lemon juice.

Five Currant Buns

Five currant buns in a baker’s shop.
Big and round with a cherry on the top,
Along came a boy with a penny one day,
Bought a currant bun and took it away.

Four currant buns in a baker’s shop.
Big and round with a cherry on the top,
Along came a boy with a penny one day,
Bought a currant bun and took it away.

Three currant buns in a baker’s shop.
Big and round with a cherry on the top,
Along came a boy with a penny one day,
Bought a currant bun and took it away.

Two currant buns in a baker’s shop.
Big and round with a cherry on the top,
Along came a boy with a penny one day,
Bought a currant bun and took it away.

One currant bun in a baker’s shop.
Big and round with a cherry on the top,
Along came a boy with a penny one day,
Bought the currant bun and took it away.

Spring Lessons

When is a good time to plant a garden? Does it matter when seeds are put into the ground? Explain that different kinds of plants need to be planted at different times. Some plants like cool weather to grow; if they get too hot they will not grow well. Other plants need warm weather to grow; if they get too cold they will die. Look at the list of plants we have compiled. Which ones can be planted soon? Which ones do we plant when the weather is warmer? Are there any we can plant in the greenhouse and then transplant? How can we find out the answers to these questions? Show the children the seed packets. Distribute the photocopies of the seed packets to the children. Look at the backs of the packets and discuss what the various information means. What is a “row?” What is “seed spacing?” What is “seed depth?” What does “harvest” mean? What is “sowing?” What other information is on the packet? Have the children use a ruler to estimate seed depth and seed spacing. Draw pictures on the experience chart as necessary to demonstrate these ideas. Look at the calendar together and have the children figure out a few problems such as “If we plant the onions next week, and the seed packet says to harvest them 6-8 weeks after sowing, when will we harvest the onions?”

Make Your Own Plant-able Seed Starter Pots

Once your seedlings are established, simply place the entire pot in your prepared garden. The newspaper will break down just like a peat pot.

Materials:

  • Newspaper – Black & White Print only- no color pages
  • Filled can – soup, tomatoes, beans, etc.
  • Homemade paste (flour + water)

Steps:

  • Cut a page of newspaper in half.
  • Fold that page in half longways.
  • Roll the folded newspaper around the can. Paste along the crease.
  • Invert the can and fold the overhanging paper as though you were wrapping a gift.
  • Add a dab of paste to the bottom and fold the last flap down.
  • Let the pots set on a clean dry piece of newspaper and allow them to dry completely.
  • Go outside and fill newspaper pots with soil.
  • Plant chamomile seeds in pots, place pots in the greenhouse. Water every several days.
  • Once the chamomile is an inch high, transfer the entire pot into the garden box.

Today we are going to start planting our Peter Rabbit Garden. Take the children outside to the garden box. Gather tools from the garden shed. Have children turn over and work the soil to loosen it. Look at the seed packets to see recommended seed depth and time for planting. All the seeds we plant today should be late winter plantings. Use a ruler to estimate seed depth and spacing. Plant the seeds. Draw a sketch for the children to show where the seeds have been planted. The children can copy this sketch back in the classroom, as well note in the calender when our plants might be ready for harvest. Discuss the factors that might affect the harvest date.Pests in our gardenWhat is a pest? What is a garden pest? How do gardeners and farmers deal with garden pests? Make a list of things that the children think might be garden pests. Discuss how each kind of pest might be dealt with by a farmer. What is the opposite of a garden pest? Can we name some garden friends?Was Peter Rabbit a pest in Farmer McGregor’s garden? How do we know this? Are there other pests talked about in the story? What did Farmer McGregor do with Peter’s jacket and shoes?Let’s go outside to the garden and see if we can find some pests and evidence of pests. Bring loupes.As Peter Rabbit’s garden grows, check on the changes regularly. Are the plants growing vigorously? Why or why not? Discuss the weather. How does weather affect plant growth? Begin a lesson about rabbits. What do rabbits like to eat? Where do they live? How do farmers deal with garden pests? What is a garden pest? This is a big problem for farmers and gardeners! (And a big, important subject to talk about.) Have the children research rabbits. Borrow a rabbit , or invite a parent with a rabbit to bring the rabbit to school to visit the garden and the children. Offer the rabbit some foods from the garden. Chart what the rabbit likes and doesn’t like to eat. Draw pictures of the rabbit in the garden. Use nice quality art supplies and paper.Check on the red current bushes. Are they blossoming? Have the children harvest and prepare the foods from the garden. Make a salad. Have the children chart and discuss their likes and dislikes. With the children, chart and illustrate the experience of planting a Peter Rabbit Garden. Using the photos, pictures, and worksheets, compile a class book of the Peter Rabbit garden experience.And finally, it is time to plant the summer Peter Rabbit garden for next year’s class. Here’s the list:

  • French bean 1 start
  • Cucumber 1 plant
  • Cabbage 1 plant
  • Potato (in cages)
  • Parsley 1 plant
  • Onion 2-3 starts
  • Carrots ½ pkg

Make a class map showing how the box is organized. Write letters to next the next class describing the expereices they have had this past year learning in the Peter Rabbit garden.As a culminating event, consider watching the movie “Miss Potter,” about the life of Beatrix Potter.Books and websites:Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter.

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