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Gateway Science Museum

Garden Detectives

garden detectives

In search of something to do? Tired of being inside? Let's go outside into the garden!  Here are a few activities to get you ready to be a garden detective.

Plant Parts

plant parts 

Kitchen Scrap Gardening

The fruits and vegetables in our kitchens are plant parts that contain nutrients and energy to keep us healthy and growing.  Did you know that these same nutrients and energy can also be used to keep the plants healthy and growing too?  This activity from Kids Gardening will teach you how to start your own Kitchen Scrap Garden.  With some water and a little bit of care, you can turn your kitchen scraps like carrot tops, onions, avocado pits, citrus seeds and many others into a windowsill garden that will allow you to grow food from what you already have at home!
In addition to the kitchen scraps described in the activity, you can also grow herbs, greens and lettuces, and celery from your leftovers.  For herbs, place the cut ends of the stems into a dark vase or other container with water and keep in a sunny place until roots start to grow from the sprigs and you can replant them into a pot with some garden soil!  The bottom "cores" of cabbage, lettuce, celery, and other greens can be placed in a shallow dish of water in a sunny window until the roots form and the leaves start to resprout!

Soil Sorting

Soil Exploration and Soil Shake Lesson and Activities (PDF)

Soil Sorting Worksheet (PDF)

Soil is all around us, but what is it made of? Why is it important? The Soil Exploration activity and accompanying Soil Sorting Worksheet, the Soil Shake activity, and this read-along(opens in new window) of Dirt by Steve Tomecek will help you explore the properties of the soil in your own yard!

soil preview

Leaf and Flower Prints

Leaf and Flower Prints (PDF)

¡Esta actividad para imprimir hojas y flores también está en español!(opens in new window) / This leaf and flower printing activity is also available in Spanish thanks to Garden Club Argentino!

What gives flowers and leaves their wide range of beautiful colors? The power of pigments! Special pigments in flower petals attract pollinators, and the pigments in leaves are part of the process that converts sunlight into the plant’s food energy. While pigments are an important part of keeping many plants healthy, they’ve also been used by people throughout history as dyes! In this leaf and flower printing activity from Kids Gardening, you’ll learn more about pigments and how to transfer them to fabric. Take a walk outside to find leaves and flowers to use, and turn a t-shirt, pillowcase, or ordinary canvas bag into a colorful, floral work of art!

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Habitat Hunt

Habitat Hunt Activity: (PDF) Learn all about what makes a habitat, and explore the one you and your neighborhood's wildlife live in with this Habitat Hunt activity!


Plant Protection

Plant Protection Scavenger Hunt: (PDF) Plants have many defense mechanisms to protect themselves from herbivores and other sources of damage.  Learn about these plant protections in this scavenger hunt activity, and see what defenses the plants in your area are using!

plant protection

Seed Viewer

Seed Viewer: (PDF) How do seeds grow into a plant? What does this growth process look like? This activity allows Garden Detectives to explore seed germination and the development of a seedling from the energy-filled package that is a tiny bean seed. Using at-home materials, watch the emergence of the roots and stem from the seed coat that contains all the nutrients the growing seedling needs.

You can enjoy the seed-sprouting process of bean seeds indoors any time of year! If you want to test your seed viewer with different types of seeds and transplant the seedlings to continue growing them outdoors in your yard or garden, it’s important to choose crops that are appropriate for the season. We are sharing this activity in June, and here in northern California it’s not too late to start growing cucumber, corn, pepper, pumpkin, tomato, and summer squash seeds!

Who Are Our Pollinators?

Pollinator Coloring and Identification: (PDF) The species on this page are native to California and can be found in our parks, gardens, and other natural areas. How many of these helpful animals have you seen in your neighborhood?

pollinator coloring activity

Learning Our Leaves 

Learning Our Leaves: (PDF) Ready to learn your leaves and color them too?  This coloring page is also a leaf identification guide for many of our local tree species!  Can you find them all in your neighborhood?

leaves activity

Water Conservation (PDF) Can a plant grow without water? How do you save water and still keep your vegetables growing? Let’s find out!

Radish Kids (PDF) Want to plant a seed and watch it grow? Join the Radish Kids and sing along.
Science Play with Food Colors (PDF) We can’t visit the store right now, but we can still have fun with a song, a book and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables!
Backyard Scavenger Hunt! (PDF) You don't have to go far to find natural wonders! How many of these natural curiosities can you find in your own backyard?