Teaching Resource ~ Fun Facts & Inspiring Activities to Explore and Play in the Garden

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Character ~ Values and Qualities

The Three Sunflowers is bursting with an abundance of qualities and values which can become seeds for discussion and growth!
Pre-reading Activity: Gathering from the list of qualities and values below, choose as many as you would like to focus on and write them on the board for your students to see. Define and discuss their meaning if necessary. Tell the students you are going to read a story where they will hear or see these values and qualities expressed.
Activity: Read the book out loud. Ask the students: Can you find an example of “(one of the values)” in the story? Can you recall or describe a time when you experienced or witnessed “(one of the values)”?
Inner Strength
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Flora and Fauna of The Three Sunflowers’ Garden

Activity 1: Ask the students what animals and plants they remember from the story, and what they know about them.

Activity 2: Share some of these interesting facts below, and invite the students to choose a bird, butterfly, animal, plant or one of the other ‘characters’ in the book to research (some links are provided below).

The largest sunflower head ever recorded was 32 inches across (82 cm). Sunflowers are native to the Americas, and over 50 different varieties have been identified. While the vibrant, strong sunflower is a recognized worldwide for its beauty, and as a symbol of peace, it is also an important source of food.

Sunflower Seeds
The sunflower seed, found inside the black and white hull, is the fruit of the Sunflower. It is also called the kernel or heart, and when eaten raw has a light nutty flavor and contains many important nutrients.

Sunflower Sprouts
Sunflower sprouts or ‘shoots’ are fast growing and taste a little bit like an almond. They are a popular treat for humans and animals alike.

American Robin
The American Robin is a migratory songbird of the thrush family. It is one of the first birds you will hear singing after dawn and is one of the most abundant land birds in North America.

At home in both cities and in the wild, Sparrows are likely the most familiar of all birds. They are primarily seed eaters, but will also consume small insects.

Daisies are related to Sunflowers, and can be found all over the world. There are 23,000 species of daisies in the world, making it likely the world’s largest family of flowering plants.

American Goldfinch
Also known as the Wild Canary, it is a small North American bird in the finch family. It is migratory, ranging from mid-Alberta in Canada to North Carolina during the breeding season, and from south of the Canadian border to Mexico during the winter.

Monarch Butterfly
Monarch butterflies are known for the incredible mass migration that brings millions of them to California and Mexico each winter. Monarchs are the only butterflies that make such a massive journey—up to 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers).

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Anna’s Hummingbird
With their iridescent emerald feathers and sparkling rose-pink throats, they are more like flying jewelry than birds. Though no larger than a ping-pong ball and no heavier than a nickel, Anna’s Hummingbirds make a strong impression.

Honeysuckle plants (over 180 varieties) are loved for their sweetly scented flowers, which are generally trumpet shaped, as well as for their decorative fruit, both of which attract birds.

House Finch
Easily spotted at birdfeeders across North America, the cheerful red head and breast of the males, and the bird’s long, twittering song, makes it a favorite among backyard birdwatchers.

Cooper’s Hawk
Among the world’s most skillful fliers, Cooper’s Hawks are common woodland hawks that tear through cluttered tree canopies in high-speed pursuit of other birds. They are often unwanted guests at bird feeders, looking for an easy meal (but not one of sunflower seeds).

Rufous Hummingbird
This is the feistiest hummingbird in North America. The brilliant orange male and the green-and-orange female are very territorial at flowers and feeders, going after (if not always defeating) even the larger hummingbirds.

Cottontail Rabbits
During the day, cottontails often remain hidden in vegetation. If spotted, they flee from prey with a zigzag pattern, sometimes reaching speeds of up to 18 miles (29 kilometers) an hour.

Red Admiral Butterfly
This large butterfly is identified by its striking dark brown, red, and black wing pattern. The caterpillar feeds on nettles, and the adult drinks from flowering plants like the Buddleia and overripe fruit.

Tiger Swallowtails
The Tiger Swallowtail is a strong flier with distinctive yellow and black striped markings on its wings and body. Some females are brown or black, mimicking the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail, a protective adaptation.

Red Spotted Purple Butterfly
The Red Spotted Purple has red spots on its underside, and the top of the wings are notable for their iridescent blue markings. It is also a mimic of the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail, though it is not a true swallowtail.

Pepper Tree
This tree is native to the Andes Mountains of Peru and belongs to the cashew family. Spanish colonials distributed the trees by seed into North America. Trees proved particularly well suited to California and the desert Southwest where they became prominent during colonial times.

Agriculture depends greatly on the honeybee for pollination. Honeybees account for 80% of all insect pollination. Without such pollination, we would see a significant decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables.

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Gardening Fun

Activity: Roll up your sleeves, put on your gardening gloves, and dig in!
Visit this link for great tips on how to grow your own Gloria-ous “Sunzilla” Sunflowers:

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The Sky Above The Three Sunflowers

Activity 1: The sky plays a major role in the story of The Three Sunflowers. Share these interesting facts below and encourage students to pick a topic to research and share what they learn.

Activity 2: The story of The Three Sunflowers takes place on planet Earth. Ask the students if they remember any other planets or stars in our solar system mentioned in the story, and what they might know about them (a few facts are listed below).

Activity 3: Many cultures in history have personified the Sun and the Moon, and there is much myth and folklore written about them. Invite students to research this and share with the class what they learn.
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The Sky
Why is the sky blue, or why might a sunrise have ‘hues of pink, orange and lavender? Besides planets and stars, the sky is full of many amazing things we can’t even see, like lightwaves, moisture, and dust particles. These invisibles are responsible for what we percieve as color.

Lightning is a massive electrostatic discharge caused by unbalanced electric charges in the atmosphere, resulting in a strike, from a cloud to the lightning itself, from a cloud to a cloud or from a cloud to the ground, and accompanied by the sound of thunder.

Thunder is the sound caused by lightning. Depending on the nature of the lightning and distance to the listener, thunder can range from a sharp, loud crack to a long, low rumble.

Rain is liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then precipitated—that is, become heavy enough to fall under gravity.

Wind is caused by differences in atmospheric pressure, moving air from the higher pressure area to the lower pressure area, resulting in winds of various speeds.

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The Moon
The Moon is the only natural satellite of our Earth. The gravitational forces between the Earth and the Moon cause some interesting effects, the most obvious is the ocean tides.

The Sun
The Sun is by far the largest object in the solar system. It contains more than 99.8% of the total mass of the Solar System.

The Language of The Three Sunflowers

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Similes & Metaphors
The Three Sunflowers is filled with similes and metaphors. A simile is a figure of speech, or form of expression, used to convey meaning or create an image by comparing two things with the words like or as.  (For example, the girl blushed like a peach.) A metaphor is also a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them without using like or as. (For example, the moon is a lighthouse in the sky.)

Activity 1: Ask students how many similes and metaphors they can find.
Activity 2: Ask students to write some similes and metaphors of their own.

The Three Sunflowers also uses personification. Personification means giving animals, plants, and other objects human qualities. (For example, The stars danced in the night sky. And, The first rays of sunlight tiptoed into the garden.)

Activity 3: Ask the students to identify who or what is personified in the story of The Three Sunflowers.
Activity 4: Ask the students to write some personification examples of their own.

Activity 5: Poets often use personification, similes and metaphors. Read the following poem, “The Sunflowers” by Mary Oliver and ask students to identify personification, similes and metaphors.

“The Sunflowers” by Mary Oliver
Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young –
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds –
each one a new life!

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

Activity 6: Questions and ideas for students: The poet, Mary Oliver, writes, “Come and let us talk with those modest faces…” and “Don’t be afraid to ask them questions!”

Ask students: If you could talk with any of the three sunflowers, who would you choose? What questions would you ask? What else would you talk about? Write a dialogue between yourself and one of the sunflowers. Or, write an interview of a sunflower.

How is Gloria a teacher to Solita and Sunny? What are some of the things she teaches them?

Do you have a “Gloria” in your life, a wise teacher, comforting relative or friend? How does she (or he) help you? (If not, where could you find one?)

On the last page of the story, there is a picture of a group of new sunflower seeds sprouting. What advice would you give them?

Activity 7: Write a poem! Invite students to write their own poems using personification, similes and metaphors.

Activity 8: Sensory description. Engage Your Senses! The Three Sunflowers’ garden is alive with the sounds, smells and sights of nature. Ask students to imagine they are walking barefoot in The Three Sunflowers’ garden, engage your senses, and write a description of everything they see, smell, hear, taste and feel.

Activity 9: Build a butterfly garden! Follow these links to learn how

Thank you to Sarah Gritzuk for sharing this wonderful, comprehensive link with us!


Butterflies in Your Playground https://www.playgroundequipment.com/butterflies-in-your-playground/


3 thoughts on “Teaching Resource ~ Fun Facts & Inspiring Activities to Explore and Play in the Garden

  1. Pingback: The Three Sunflowers | Children's Books Heal

  2. The lesson ideas here are fun, thoughtful and thorough! I love the fun facts and activities and plan to discuss the multicultural aspects of the sun and moon with my adult ESL class. I have a projector in class that will allow my students to view the pages of this book in full and life-like water color. I think the message therein transcends language through the beautifully illustrated pages and I feel like writing a poem myself!

    • I have no doubt that your students are so very lucky to have such a thoughtful and creative teacher, and I bet they know it as well! We hope these activities are useful and fun for all! Thank you!

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