The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Black History
Environmental Stewardship
by Gene Barretta - A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to explore the themes of generosity and service embodied in the life of George Washington Carver.

A passion for service can begin at a very young age.  “The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver” chronicles the inspirational life of George Washington Carver. This beautifully illustrated book goes beyond Carver’s acclaim as an African American scientist, celebrating his triumphs in the face of discrimination and his life-long desire to help others.

Literature Guide by Maureen Klein

Before Reading 

Ask: The cover illustrations are of a young George Washington Carver.  Looking at these pictures, what do you think is important to George?

Show: This is a non-fiction book about the life of a famous American environmentalist. What is an environmentalist? 

Connect: George Washington Carver’s accomplishments are even more remarkable considering he was born into slavery. What do you know about the history of slavery in the United States?

During Reading 

Ask:  Even as a boy, George liked to help people. He would care for their plants and help them grow. In what ways was George generous?

Show: Pause on the page that describes George’s education. He was passionate to learn all he could but it wasn’t easy. What character traits did George Washington Carver need in order to achieve his goals?

Connect: George Washington Carver created a traveling schoolhouse. He asked the farmers he worked with, “What would you like to learn today?” How might the farmers have felt when asked that question?  How would you feel if your school day began with that question?   

After Reading 

Ask: The book ends with George Washington Carver’s words “Regard nature. Revere nature. Respect nature.” Discuss what those words mean and how George Washington Carver lived those values with his life. 

Show:  Look at the timeline in the back of the book. Point out Carver’s birth and death dates. He was born enslaved in 1864. When he died in 1943 he was a world renowned scientist. Share some of the additional significant events in Carver’s life that were not featured in the story.

Connect: George Washington Carver loved being in nature. He used his passion for helping things grow to help people and serve humanity. What are you passionate about and how can you use those interests to help the world? 


  1. Mr. Carver invented many things with peanuts.  Research his inventions.  Choose one of his inventions that you think could help improve people’s lives.  Create an advertisement for that invention.

  2. George Washington Carver was a careful observer of nature.  He studied and painted flowers.  Choose a flower or plant near your home to study and illustrate.  Try observing the same plant through all four seasons.

  3. George Washington Carver was born in Diamond, Missouri.  The place where he was born is the first National Monument established to honor an African American.  Learn more about Mr. Carver and this National Monument by exploring the National Park website including videos of the monument and more about Mr. Carver’s life.

  4. George Washington Carver once said, “It is simply service that measures success.”  Discuss what he might have meant by this quote and how we can apply it to our own lives.