Garbage to Gardens is a set of lessons designed to introduce students to the concept of the “recycled garden.” Originally developed by the Smithsonian Gardens Green Team for use as educational demonstrations and later expanded for use in classrooms, these lessons are designed to promote environmental awareness and inspire students to think critically about the environment and understand their role in it.

The lessons in this unit focus on sustainability including water conservation, recycling, and natural gardening techniques. Activities can be used individually or as a unit and adapted to suit different classroom needs or environments.

Recommended Grades: 5-8


  • Life Science
  • Environmental Science

In these lessons, students will:

  • Feel
  • Explore
  • Create
  • Plant
  • Play
  • Connect
  • Discuss

Next Generation Science Standards

  • LS1.B Growth and Development of organisms
  • LS1.A Structure and Function
  • LS2.A Independent Relationships to Ecosystems
  • LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
  • ESS3.C Human Impacts on Life
  • ESS2.C Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Process
  • ESS3.A Natural Resources

21st Century Skills

  • Creativity & Innovation
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Collaborate with Others
  • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
  • Environmental Literacy

Common Core