PBS KIDS and Scratch Jr logos

How Plants Grow

Grow a digital garden with NATURE CAT


Tally Ho! Inspired by NATURE CAT, in this activity children will explore cause and effect relationships and what plants need to grow and thrive. Children will be challenged to create projects in PBS KIDS ScratchJr where they make their own plants and trees grow.  

Learning Goals

Children will learn how to use the PBS KIDS ScratchJr programming blocks to make animated stories and interactive projects. They will explore coding and computational thinking practices as they utilize technology as a tool for creativity, expression and learning with the PBS KIDS ScratchJr app.   


  • Programming/Coding
  • Sequence/Algorithm
  • Events
  • Parallelism


  • iPads or Android tablets for each child (or group of children)
  • NATURE CAT “Ze Worm Whisperer,” episode (see below)
  • TV, projector, computer, or other device to play the episode
  • A document camera to display tablet work to the whole group or a cable to connect the tablet and projector
  • Chalkboard, whiteboard, or poster paper for brainstorming
  • Design Handouts
  • Parent Handout (English | Spanish)

Getting Started (5 minutes)

The context in which you are engaging in this activity will impact how you get started. Take the time to set-up cues, preview what you’re going to be doing and why, and to get the kids ready and focused for a fun and creative PBS KIDS challenge.

Today children will get to use their knowledge of nature to become gardening experts just like Daisy and Nature Cat. Children will use PBS KIDS ScratchJr to grow their own digital plants and trees. Tally ho!

Ask a focusing question and have each child answer: If you could grow anything in your garden, what would you grow?

Play (10 minutes)

Have everyone stand in a circle for a game of “Zip, Zap, Zop.” 

  • Have the whole group repeat those three words in order a few times. Zip. Zap. Zop.
  • Tell the group that you have a bolt of energy in your hands. To start the game, send the bolt out of your hands with a strong forward motion straight to someone else in the circle and say, “Zip.” Be sure you make eye contact with the person you pass it to.
  • Now it’s that person’s turn to immediately send the bolt of energy to someone else by saying, “Zap,” using the same forward moving hand motion and eye contact.
  • The third person passes it on with a “Zop,” to someone else in the circle.
  • The game continues in that order, “Zip, Zap, Zop,” until there is a mistake.
  • Play for as many rounds as time allows.

This game is a great way to get children active and focused and also helps to reinforce the computational thinking concept of Events; one thing causing another thing to happen. The game is all about triggers, events, and cause and effect relationships.

Explore (20 minutes)

Model and have the group follow along as you explore how to use the Grow, Shrink, Start on Tap, Wait, and Message Sending blocks within PBS KIDS ScratchJr by dragging each of them into the programming area and discovering what they do. 

Additionally, make sure you give children some free time to openly explore the app on their own. Give children opportunities to share any new and exciting discoveries with the group.

Watch (15 minutes)

View the 11-minute NATURE CAT episode, “Ze Worm Whisperer,” and have the group pay attention to how Nature Cat and his friends help prepare the garden to help Daisy’s plants grow.   

Create (30 minutes)

Now it’s time to for everyone to make their own plant growing projects. Make sure everyone has a tablet to work on and make yourself available to lend support as everyone works on their projects. 

  • Work as a group to create a list of all the things plants need to grow. Capture this list on the board.
  • Encourage everyone add a plant or tree character to their project as well as some other objects that their plant/tree needs to grow.
  • Challenging Option

    Encourage children to use the Start on Green Flag, Grow, and Wait blocks to create projects where exposure to the sun, water, and worms helps plants grow.

  • Encourage children to use the concept of Parallelism by using the 'Start on Green Flag block to trigger all of their characters' programs
  • Encourage children to add animations for the sun, water, and/or worm characters
  • Encourage children to make their plants grow after being triggered and after waiting for other objects to complete their animations.
  • Super Challenging Option

    Encourage everyone to use the Start on Tap, Send/Receive Messages, and Grow blocks to create programs that make their plants grow when other objects are tapped on.

  • Tap on the Sun, and the plant should grow.
  • Tap on the water, same thing.
  • Is there anything that can be added and programmed that would make their plant shrink (snow, animals, storms etc.)?

If anyone gets stuck, encourage them to reach out to each other for support.

Make it Simpler

Have children forget all of the other extra characters and just practice making the plant grow or shrink when it is tapped on.

Share (15 minutes)

Have everyone swap tablets with a partner to check out each other's projects. Encourage them to explore which programming blocks their partner used and why. Additionally, continue to model and encourage the giving and receiving of warm and cool feedback. Is there anything they would change about their project after seeing their partner’s project? After 5 minutes get everyone’s attention and ask them to share something awesome about their partner’s project with the whole group.  

Keep Going

If you have extra time give children the chance to work on whatever they would like. If they received useful feedback, were inspired by other projects, or want to attempt one of the extensions below, this is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Or they can start a whole new project and can create whatever they would like.  

Take Home

Send children home with this Parent Handout (English | Spanish) to help encourage discussion and continued play at home!  

For more videos and games featuring Nature Cat and his friends
Visit the NATURE CAT website