Garden songs and games

Anyone who's been to summer camp knows that a huge part of the camp experience is group singing. Blasting out silly lyrics at the top of your lungs is not only a rousing good time (for adults too!), but also helps create bonds between campers who may have little else in common. Classics such as Boom-Chicka-Boom resound across living rooms long after kids return camp, and are often remembered for months or years afterward. And no camp would be complete without a good collection of games.

As garden camps and camp gardens sprout up throughout Wisconsin, these traditions carry on, and can be molded to fit the growing theme. Below is a collection of garden-themed songs and games. We'd love to add more to the list! Please send your favorite garden-themed songs and games to - we'll compile the list, and post it to our Resources page!


Dirt Made My Lunch and others from Banana Slug String Band's Singing on our Garden 
Groovin' in the Garden and other songs from Story Laurie
Herman the Worm
The Wisconsin Milk Song
Purple Stew

Funky Chicken Song
The Planting Song
Many of these songs have simple tunes for listening or singing along! With a little creativity they can be easily modified or amended to incorporate more tidbits from your own garden. For example, after singing "Let me see your funky chicken," you could sing "Let me see your squirmy worm," or "Let me see your honey bee," with appropriate motions, of course!


In addition to the games listed below, almost any garden activity can be made into a game! Try longest root competitions while weeding, create plant "characters" while planting, name the worms, and when you water your plants in July, don't forget to water yourself, too! 
Farmer in the Dell
Similar to "Shark and Minnows" or "Park Ranger." Create a rectangular playing field. All students stand at one end. Choose two people to be the "Farmers." Everyone else chooses a vegetable or fruit. Farmers stand in the middle of the field and call out a veggie characteristic. Example: "If your vegetable is the leaf of a plant." Then, everyone whose veggie or fruit has that characteristic has to run to the other side, while the farmers try to tag them. If you get tagged, you become a "plant" rooted to the ground where you were tagged. Plants can still move their arms and tag other runners! Farmers can also say "Harvest Time!" and everyone must run. After the first round you will end up with students running in both directions. Run out of bounds and you automatically become a plant. Play until the majority of people are "plants." Good for large groups. 

A Big Wind Blows
A good icebreaker. Make a circle with one person in the middle. Everyone in the circle needs a "marker" such as cone or a garden glove behind them. Person in the middle says "A big wind blows if you...(something they like in the garden)" Anyone else who also likes that must run into the middle of the circle and find a new spot by an empty marker. One person will be left without a marker. This person is  now in the middle. If kids end up in the middle multiple times, you can have them "bump" to another person. Good for groups of 10-20 people.

Pepper-Pepper Corn
Sit in a tight circle of 8-12 people. Assign each person a different vegetable, or have them choose. Everyone must cover their teeth completely with their lips. The point of the game is to get other people to laugh and show their teeth. On your turn you must say the name of your vegetable twice, and someone else's vegetable once. For example, the "Pepper" person could say "Pepper, Pepper, Corn." Now its is "Corn's" turn. If you show your teeth, you are out. (Alternatively, assign one point in the circle to be the "sun" - if you show your teeth, you move away from the sun. The point of the game is then to get closer to the sun.)

Simon in the Garden
Similar to "Simon Says" or "Ship to Shore." One person is the caller - everyone else must follow his/her instructions and try to not get eliminated. Here are the commands and the actions that follow:
  • "Farmer's coming!" - Stand "at attention" with pitchfork in hand. Do not move until you hear "Water break" - then you may relax or follow other commands. If you move before you hear "Water break," you are out!
  • "Garden!" - Run to the left side of the field. If you run the wrong direction, you are out.
  • "Shed!" - Run to the right side of the field. If you run the wrong direction, you are out.
  • "Worm!" - Everyone wriggle like a worm.
  • "Wheelbarrow!" - Two people group up and one holds the other's legs to make a wheelbarrow. Find a parter fast or your are out!
  • "Harvest!" - Form groups of three. One person stands with their arms out to be the plant, the other two pick "fruit" off the branches. Find a group, or your are out!
  • "Chow down!" - Form groups of four. Pretend to be eating a giant salad or other yummy garden snack. Find a group, or you are out!
Students who are "out" can help the caller watch for other students who should be "out."

Funding for this project was provided by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.  

Resources & Events

Summer Camp Survey
Associated with a camp? Help WSGI build a list of camps with - or wanting - gardens by completing this six-question survey. Thanks for connecting and helping us build our capacity to provide resources for camp gardens!
WAEE Conference and Green and Healthy Schools Institute: August 13-15, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Attendees will participate in hands-on workshops, concurrent sessions, and field trips. Networking opportunities are plentiful, as are fun, locally- themed social events. A wonderful collaboration between the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education and Green and Healthy Schools Wisconsin!
Gorman Heritage Farm's Garden Camp Training Manual. This free pdf outlines the program, policies and philosophy of Gorman Heritage Farm's Day Camp. A working farm and outdoor education center in Evandale, Ohio, Gorman Heritage Farm is featured on The Edible Schoolyard Project's website.
Seattle Tilth Garden Summer Camps. Seattle Tilth has an amazing array of garden-based summer camps! Visit this page to get inspired with creative programs, themes, and photos. Ideas for all ages.

School Garden Success Stories

We'd love to hear from you!  Our newsletters will continue to profile stories of Wisconsin educators and their youth gardens. What have been your biggest challenges and successes? What makes your garden unique and worthwhile?  If you're not sure where to begin, you can follow our story guide.  If you've already written a blog post or article, you can share that, too.  Share here.
Lake Valley Camp: Teens teaching in the garden

Every day this summer, a group of teens will gather in the garden at Lake Valley Camp.  They discuss what they will be teaching that day, and then prepare for the younger campers to arrive.  Each morning, they host two groups of campers in the garden; each afternoon, they lead two cooking classes in the camp’s learning kitchen, constructed from a renovated barn. These gardening teens are in their third and final year of the Lake Valley’s Leadership Training program.  Many will go on to be camp counselors, mentoring and caring for the campers who are tracing their path from just a few years before.
The garden program, brought to life just three years ago, fits in perfectly with the camps mission to “develop the abilities of high school students from underserved neighborhoods [of Milwaukee] to teach, lead, and inspire children form the same neighborhoods.”
The year three Leaders in Training – known as Garden Assistants or GA’s – are under the tutelage of Sara Tedeschi, an experienced Farm to School specialist and garden educator.  Even so, Tedeschi remains very much in the background when the younger campers come around.  “I literally teach just one cooking session at the beginning of the month the GA’s are at camp,” she said. “After that, each GA takes a turn being at the head chef’s table, teaching the day’s menu.” The other GA’sassist small groups of campers at their cooking stations, monitoring knife skills and guiding students around the garden so they can see the produce they are cooking with. This summer’s menu has included stove-top pizzas with sautéed veggies and herbs in place of sauce, breakfast burritos, and homemade butter. The GA’s will culminate their summer kitchen experience with an Iron Chef competition using garden produce.
By teaching, the GA’s learn both garden and culinary skills at an amazing rate. They come in knowing next to nothing [about gardening and cooking], and they have to learn very quickly from me to turn around and teach back those skills to the younger campers,” Tedeschi said. “They learn to take over the classes, so by the end, they are both planning and leading the classes.“
The skills that GA’s can learn in just one month translate far beyond the garden, the kitchen, or even Lake Valley Camp. GA’s who have gone on as counselors have reflected back on their experience in the garden as a place that increased their self-confidence, changed their perspective on nature and food, and motivated them to help younger kids learn the same things. One former GA is now employed as a cook at a college in Milwaukee, a job he attributes to his summer experience as a Lake Valley in the garden and kitchen.
For campers of all ages, the garden is a wonderful place to connect, or re-connect, with the natural world. Although Lake Valley Camp is located in Western Wisconsin, campers are all from the city of Milwaukee – the camp works with partner schools who recommend students and families they think would be a good fit – and getting down in the dirt may not come naturally. Garden activities are designed to bring out kids’ natural –if unpracticed - instinct to explore and observe the world around them.  The garden is often the entry point for connecting kids with the camp’s 650 acres of woods, water, and fields.
In addition to digging in the soil, meeting the camp chickens, and eating the veggies they grow and harvest, campers find a simple solace in the garden. One former GA stated the following:
“Something that I wish my friends at home can actually get from this is thatfarming is actually really good at stress relief. Coming into this I had a lot of things on my mind, but…then we weed, and that releases my stress, and then when I plant the seed and it makes the root, and then it makes the stem, and it makes the leaf, and it makes the flower and then it makes the fruit, you’re just like, wow, I did that.
 It just relaxes you, and you smell it, you eat it, and you just like, take all that beauty inside you.”
For more information about Lake Valley Camp, visit
WSGI Recognized as "Exemplary Partnership" via Community-University Award

This June, we were excited to announce WSGI was honored with one of seven Community-University Partnership Awards from UW-Madison. We'd like to share more about the story behind this recognition! 
The Community-University Partnership award recognizes WSGI for making significant contributions to the good of the Wisconsin community via an "exemplary partnership" with the university. WSGI was nominated by its funder, the Wisconsin Partnership Program, which stated, "Your work - developing an infrastructure to support youth gardening and garden-based education across the state - is a critical step in helping to reduce obesity rates in Wisconsin."

UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank distributed the awards and congratulated awardees at an award ceremony on June 3rd. “Beyond the Wisconsin Idea, the common thread [between these projects] is their long-term potential,” Blank said of the projects honored at the ceremony. “These initiatives are changing lives right now, but they are not quick fixes. These are solutions with staying power – and that’s the part that makes them particularly valuable to the communities they serve.”

Since its inception just over a year ago, WSGI has reached over 400 Wisconsin educators through school garden trainings and technical support, with fourteen additional trainings scheduled for this year.  WSGI also provides a growing list of resources for garden educators in Wisconsin, including garden planning and lesson plans, information on available grants, and success stories of school gardens from throughout the state. 

Additionally, WSGI is collaborating with several academic partners at UW-Madison on a research component of the initiative that aims to determine the effectiveness of school garden programs in relation to students’ nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.  Findings will help guide the initiative in its launch of the self-sustaining Wisconsin School Garden Network. The Network will continue to provide support and resources for garden educators throughout the state.

According to the UW Madison News, the awards “thank community partners and recognize the work of UW-Madison faculty, staff and students as they join together to address pressing public issues in Madison and the surrounding region. They are sponsored by UW-Madison’s Office of Community Relations, Community Partnerships and Outreach (CPO) Staff Network, with support from the Office of the Chancellor and the Morgridge Center for Public Service.”
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                                                                                                              For those new to WSGI, we couldn't leave out these amazing resources. "Got Dirt?" will walk you through starting a school garden, while "Got Veggies?" will help you implement a garden-based nutrition curriculum.  "Cultivating Childhood Wellness through Gardening" is an online training that will help you establish and utilize a school garden.  You can watch the entire training or select specific chapters.

Find them all here.

Want to see the Wisconsin School Garden Newsletter each month?   Subscribing is a great first step to supporting the Initiative. If you're already involved, don't worry - you can't  double-book yourself on the network list.