Friday, September 18, 2009

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden is the next book we were set to tackle this school year. I wanted to try to incorporate our younger kid activites into the curriculum this week instead of dividing it up. We wind up overlapping so much, it just made sense. In order to make our learning a tiny bit more flexible, with each unit study I have gotten both the hardcopy of the book, and if its available I have gotten the book on CD for the busy days when we are in the car. This has been a lifesaver!

Book summary:

Mary, a bitter young orphan girl from India, is brought to England to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire Moors. Upon encountering numerous problems in adjusting to the rigid, lonely, and unfamiliar life of her uncle's mansion, she gradually befriends Dicken and her cousin Colin. Together, they venture to restore the Secret Garden, into which entry had been forbidden by Mary's uncle. The story culminates when the garden flourishes once again; and Mary's cousin is able to walk again, thanks to her, after spending years confined to a bed, believing he was forever destined to be a hunchback. The Secret Garden conveys a message of hope--a message based on the powerful role of friendship in bringing about a change for the better

Extended Activities:
  • Find India on the globe, then also find England on the globe. Trace the route Mary might have taken, discuss the differences in travel then and now.
  • Use Google earth to view photos of India, or find photos of India online.
  • for preschoolers, do a flower/gardening unit
  • Grow a lima bean seed. Discuss the parts of the plant, and what plants need to grow.
  • Dickon planted potatoes in his garden. What do potatoes need to grow? Purchase small trashcan, punch holes in the bottom of it. Then fill it with potting soil. Cut up several potatoes and bury them in the potting soil inside of the trashcan. Watch potatoes grow. Better directions here.
  • Watch video on what the moors of England look like here
  • Compare and contrast England to India.
  • Watch movie versions of the book, compare the movie to the book. Which version did you like the best?
  • What would Mary, and her mother have worn? Look at fashions of the 1900's here
  • Get some paper dolls from the period
  • Draw a picture of what your secret garden would look like.
  • colin says there is magic in the world, but people dont know what it is, or where it comes from. He says that maybe its saying nice things to people that makes magic happen. Learn a couple of simple magic tricks.
  • Take the time to say nice things to each other.
  • place all the major events in the book on slips of paper. Have the child put them in order.

Art projects:
  • Make a construction paper flower collage
  • use clay to make a flower stamp, make a flower picture with clay stamp
  • use pastels to make a large (o'keefe like) flower
  • make tissue paper flowers
  • make a watercolor garden
  • do flower face painting

  • How does Mary change physically and/or mentally during the novel?
  • Where is Mary first taken after her parent's death?
  • What nickname does the clergyman's son give to Mary?
  • How might Mary's life be different if her parents hadn't died of cholera?
  • Mary eventually moves to her uncle's home. Is moving hard to do?
  • Both Mary and Colin are described as very unpleasant children. Why do you think they are so very unpleasant? Who is responsible?
  • At what oint in the story does Mary begin to be less contrary and selfish and more normal, caring?
  • Why does Mary respond differently to Martha?
  • Does mary do the right thing to Colin the night he has hysterics?
  • What is meant in this story by the quote "When you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow."?
  • what is the magic that makes colin walk? (positive belief) What magic would you want for yourself? what would you choose for your family members/friends? Do you believe this magic exists or not?

Younger child activities:

Nursery Rhyme:

Mistress mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockel shells,
and marigolds all in a row.


Planting a Rainbow, Lois Ehlert
The Reason for a flower, Ruth Heller
The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle
Trees, Harry Behm and James Endicott
The Mouse and the Potato, Thomas Berger
Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Jeanne Titheringron
Over in the Meadow, Ezra Jack Keats

  • Explain the process of a seed growing into a plant. If you have them, show pictures of seeds and plants. Be sure to explain that plants need water, clean air, and sunlight to grow. Then sing the following song and have the children act out the plants growing process as you sing. (the child will start curled up as a "seed")
The flower seed song (to the tune of Ten Little Indians)
One little, two little, three little flower seeds
Four little, five little, six little flower seeds
Seven little, eight little, nine little flower seeds
planted in my garden
Water those seeds and watch them grow (sing three times)
in my flower garden
The warm sun helps the flowers grow taller (sing three times)
in my flower garden
Watch those flowers sway in the breeze (sing three times)
in my flower garden
  • Give the kids art supplies and ask them to create their idea of a garden
  • Explain the purpose of earthworms in the garden. Purchase some earthworms from the bait shop. Let the children handle the earthworms, if you are brave enough make an aquarium home for the worms and allow the kids to care for them. (Worms eat corn meal, green leafies, grass cuttings, potato peelings, bread crumbs and coffee grounds (2 TBL every other week). When you are done, let them wriggle back into the ground.
  • How Bees pollinate flowers: paint flowers on a piece of paper that have 2 inch circles in the center and let them dry. Once they are dry, sprinkle either cornstarch or flour into the centers. Fashion "bees" our of pipe cleaners and show how the pollen will stick to the "bee" when it visits the flower.
  • Listen to Laurie Berkner's Bumble bee song Here.
  • The magic of the garden, was the special feelings that Mary and Colin experienced about each other and themselves. Hide a mirror in a box and cover the box. Have the children guess which special person could be in the box. Then pass the box and let them look into the box at the mirror.
  • make a paper plate self portrait using buttons for eyes, yarn for hair, and a Popsicle stick to hold it up. Have circle time and chat about the things that make each of us special.
  • Each child traces their handprints on a different colored construction paper. Each family member lists on each handprint something special about each child.

Vocabulary Words

Ayah - an Indian term for nanny
clotted cream
Cholera - a disease of the intestines that is often fatal
flatly - dull, without expression
frail - weak, sickly
moor - English prairie lands, rolling hillsides that grow wild plants
musty - smelling old and damp
nanny - someone paid to care for a child
sour expression - an upset look
stern - very strong and firm. Usually not kind.


  1. Wow this looks really fantastic Jenn! I've never read this book so I'm definitely going to be reading here to see how things go.

  2. Impressive! I may need to borrow some of your ideas.
    Thank you for your comment on my blog!

    Peace and Laughter!

  3. We really enjoyed The Secret Garden when my oldest was younger. I love the tip about getting both the print book and the CD! That would really help us lots of times and I never would have thought of it.

  4. Goo-o-o-od heavens, what a talented person you are....I love this "Secret Garden" thingie!! Waht a great idea. All your goodies are so neat and can't wait to do all these!! WOW, really W O W!! Thanks, Jackie


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