Foundation, in the garden


Making mud pies and learning about size and capacity. Image courtesy of Allenby Gardens Primary School.

Measuring and mud pies

Foundation classroom case study: Maths, science and ICT in the garden

School description: Allenby Gardens Primary School is an inner city school in Adelaide with 570 preschool to Year 7 students. The school has a high number of English as an Additional Language and Dialect (EALD) students. The main sustainability focus at the school is the students’ food garden that consists of eight plots, one for each class. There are also compost bins, worm farms and Bokashi bins to support learning about the nutrient cycle; from food scraps into compost and back into food.

Teacher: Mary-Alice Williams

Curriculum objectives  

This seven-week unit was for Foundation and Reception (five- and six-year old) students and it was designed to integrate maths and science with the garden focus and connect general capabilities – such as literacy, numeracy and the cross-curriculum perspectives – with a strong focus on sustainability. The garden provides the context for the children’s learning. The natural environment enables us to cater for a wide range of individual classroom needs. The Australian Curriculum provides the ‘what’ and the Teaching for Effective Learning (TfEL) framework provides a useful ‘how’ tool.

Teaching and learning process

Oral language and literacy are big targets of this unit. After each garden lesson the children use a recount graphic organiser to draw and write about what they did in the garden. Each week the ‘stars of the week’ record our questions, findings and excitements in our class science journal book.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) draws the children in. Each week students take photos and videos of the class working in the garden. They all enjoy viewing the results. One child was filmed making mud pies as a fun way of learning about capacity. We discussed the words he was using, which clarified the difference between ‘capacity’ and ‘size’. We set up opportunities to explore and practise the measurement concepts of length, mass and capacity in the classroom and in the garden setting. The children used recycled plastic containers donated by parents and the labels were made from recycled cardboard.

Pre-testing recorded the children’s prior knowledge, which allowed the program to be differentiated and enabled me to identify different entry points of learning for the class. Setting inquiry questions and explicitly setting out the learning intentions of the activity helped the children engage and succeed. For example, the mud pie lesson’s inquiry question was: “How can you show, order and label six different amounts?”

The learning intention of the task was to fill six containers with different amounts of water and soil. The children were asked to work with a group and make sure everyone in their group completed the six different amounts. Filming during and at the end of the unit showed the children’s learning growth and demonstrated their conceptual understanding.

Outcomes of this unit

  • All children achieved the Foundation Level of Measurement in the Australian Curriculum.
  • Extension activities allowed children to explore and achieve Year 1 Level of Measurement in the Australian Curriculum.
  • All students were correctly using the mathematical measurement concepts in context and maths language increased.
  • All children were able to record a recount of their maths lesson/ activity from the garden.
  • All children were able to connect and engage with the lessons – including EALD, NEP and sensory sensitive students. 
  • The program increased some children’s attendance, wellbeing and willingness to engage in learning new concepts.
  • Short films of the children’s learning were made for parents to demonstrate learning in the garden and the Australian Curriculum.
  • Children learnt to complete tasks and learning intentions individually and in a team.
  • Children built connections with the school garden and learned to work in a variety of learning environments.
  • Parents attended open mornings and working bees in the garden.
  • Parent information packs and resources allowed parents to set up further learning opportunities in their own home gardens.
  • The program demonstrated ways parents could use recyclable materials to help their children to learn mathematical concepts.


What we would do differently next time?

To improve the unit for the children, we would:

  • Increase the number of lessons conducted in the garden and allow more opportunity for the children to set inquiry questions.
  • Enable increased parent involvement and hold more information sessions. 

 What was very effective?

  • Giving the children two or more opportunities to practise, explore and increase their knowledge at the same task.
  • Changing and resetting challenges based on reviewing the filming and achievements after each lesson.
  • Involving parents in collecting and providing recycled materials to source the program.
  • Recording learning and progress through film was a great way for children to see themselves as learners learning. It gave great opportunities for students to practise self-reflection and receiving constructive feedback.

 What are your next steps as a result of your project?

  • Increase the program for Year 1 and Year 2 classes to be involved in science- and maths-based lessons in the garden.
  • Publish or record digitally the students’ learning.
  • Find other resources, sites, programs to complement these activities.


Chemical sciences

Primary Connections – What is it made of? -

You Tube – Maths songs – Capacity, Length and Mass            

Local NRM – Natural Resource Management Resource web site and team coordinators.

Recount Graphic organisers 


Australian Curriculum and/or state frameworks

Australian Curriculum- Foundation level

Maths - Using units of measurement

Use direct and indirect comparisons to decide which is longer, heavier or holds more, and explain reasoning in everyday language (ACMMG006)

By the end of the Foundation year, students make connections between number names, numerals and quantities up to 10. They compare objects using mass, length and capacity.

Science - Chemical sciences

Objects are made of materials that have observable properties (ACSSU003)

Questioning and predicting

Respond to questions about familiar objects and events (ACSIS014)


Share observations and ideas (ACSIS012)

Sustainability – Australian Curriculum 


OI. 6 The sustainability of ecological, social and economic systems is achieved through informed individual and community action that values local and global equity and fairness across generations into the future. 

OI. 7 Actions for a more sustainable future reflect values of care, respect and responsibility, and require us to explore and understand environments.