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Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

Growing a Native American "Three Sisters" Garden

Lesson Description:
Students will be able to....
  • Identify and describe the basic stages in the life cycle of green plants.
  • Identify characteristics of green plants (e.g., pole beans, corn and squash) that help with growth and development.
  • Describe how native americans used their understanding of plants and the environment to grow food.
  • Describe the benefits of companion planting.

Lesson Type:
  • Group Work
  • Project

Sustainability Topic:
  • Gardening

GEF Program Category:
  • Green Thumb Challenge

Time Needed:
About one hour of prep work building time plus two months of growing time
Standards Addressed:
  • Science Standard 5: Understand the structure and function of cells and organisms.
  • Benchmark # 1: Know that plants progress through life cycles and that the details of these life cycles are different for different plants.
  • Benchmark # 2: Know that living organisms have distinct structures and body systems that serve specific functions in growth, survival and reproduction.

  • Science Standards 6: Understand relationships among organisms and their physical environment.
  • Benchmark # 4: Know that changes in the environment can have different effects on different organisms (e.g., nitrogen given off by bean plants also benefit other plants in close proximity to them).
  • Benchmark # 5: Know that all organisms (including humans) cause change in their environments and these changes can be beneficial or detrimental (e.g., humans add compost to soil to enrich it, as squash plants grow they provide shade and weed control for other plants in close proximity to them).

  • Science Standard 12: Understand the nature of scientific inquiry.
  • Benchmark # 5: Know that scientists’ explanations about what happens in the world come partly from what they observe and partly from how they interpret their observations.

  • History Standard 2: Understand the history of a local community and how communities in north america varied long ago.
  • Benchmark # 2: Know geographical settings, economic activities, food, clothing, crafts and rituals of native american societies long ago.

  • Geography Standard 1: Understand the characteristics and uses of maps, globes and other geographic tools (e.g., compasses) and technologies.
  • No specific benchmark applies.

Materials Needed:
For an outdoor garden:
  • Rakes and spades
  • Yardstick
  • Compass
  • Corn seeds
  • Squash or pumpkin seeds
  • Bean seeds 
  • Plot of land that receives direct sunlight and has access to water 

School or Group:
Green Education Foundation (GEF)
Contact Email:

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