Amanda Ripa, School Garden Coach at Messalonskee Middle School, used this lesson plan to align garden activities with their 7th grade science learning standards.

[Learn more about the Messalonskee School Gardens, and the School Garden Coach Pilot Program, and check out her other lesson plan on Species Interactions]


Author: Amanda Ripa


Grade Level: 7-8


Topic: Life Science, Environmental Science: ecosystem interactions and symbiosis


RSU 18 Learning Goal: Understands ways in which organisms interact within a system. Understands symbiosis, mutualism, commensalism, parasitism.


Next Generation Science Standards:

Science and Engineering Practices

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

Crosscutting Concepts


Stability and Change


Science Vocabulary:







Review: ecosystem, organism, system, interaction


Context: this lesson is part of our study of soils and agriculture. We have garden plots available and grant money to spend on developing our gardens and providing students experience with planting and harvesting.


Lesson Outline:

Timeline: 3-5 days


Access Prior Knowledge:

Teacher will show pictures of different organisms (forest or pond organisms they are familiar with) in a slideshow. Discuss- How do they interact? How do they depend on each other? Are they friend or foe?


Build Knowledge:

Students will read an article about symbiosis at their reading level: options are CK12 article or EdHelper article. Teacher will provide other text options to focus on each relationship type with specific examples.


Practice with New Knowledge:

Students will practice their understanding of the vocabulary using Quizlet.

Students will play a game as a class to demonstrate the relationships between different organisms in different types of ecosystems. Teacher will provide organism cards to match relationships (as simple as a picture of an organism from a familiar ecosystem). Add in garden plants to make a connection to the next task. Discuss how plants can interact with each other and with other organisms in the environment.


Apply New Knowledge: Students will create a plan for the garden beds using their understanding of species interactions. Students will research how plants interact with each other and other organisms using a variety of text resources (websites and books provided). Using this information, students will identify an example of the 5 different interactions and complete the comparison matrix.


From this information, students will develop a garden design plan using a list of plants they want to grow in the gardens. The garden plan should have the symbols to represent the relationship and reasoning for planting the plants near each other. Garden plans can be hand drawn using the template or digital using Google sketchup or similar technology program.


Summative Assessment Option: Students will write a constructed response to accompany their garden plan detailing their argument to answer the prompt: How should we organize our gardens to achieve the highest yield? Responses should include: a claim, at least three supporting details with evidence from their comparison matrix, science vocabulary, a conclusion statement.