Teacher: Bernadette Lambert           

Overview: Planting a garden can inspire an idea as significant as creating a community.  A variety of communities can be transformed through the creation, observation, and preservation of a garden.  The challenge is how to convince members of a community that it is essential and most likely rewarding. Click here for extended version of this lesson with student artifact and teacher reflection.

Materials:  Seedfolk by Paul Fleischman (or another short story or novel in which community building is a strong theme); handout, “What a Garden Can Teach Us”

Time: 2-3 hours or (the unit can be extended to much longer periods)

Instructional sequence:
1.  Read Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman or another short story or novel in which community building is a strong theme.
2.  Facilitate a discussion of the found poem adapted from Paul Grunchow’s “What the Prairie Teaches Us,” as students explain the qualities of a garden.  For example, ask students to suggest examples of how a garden is patient or tolerant.
3.  Using the found poem (where students compose a poem using only words and phrases from the text of Seedfolks), have students work in small groups to create an illustrated poem with images suggested from the text to represent each stanza of the poem.  For example, to illustrate how “a garden grows richer as it ages,” students might illustrate the scene when Gonzalo finds Uncle Tio in the garden and realizes “he’d changed from a baby back into a man.”

4.  Use the same poem as text for a blank quilt displayed in a common area.  The teacher writes each line of the poem on one sheet of paper.  Each sheet of paper becomes one square in the blank quilt.  Students, in small groups or individually, then draw images to illustrate each square and the quilt becomes a communal text applying the meaning of the poem specifically to the classroom community.  For example, students might illustrate the tolerance of their classroom community when a new student arrives and is treated with respect.  This step of the activity could take as little as a week or as long as a school year, depending on how long it takes the lesson to be learned.  (Remember the garden is patient.)  It works well in conjunction with the cultivation of a real garden, as students return to the original found poem, the original text, and make the connections.

Necessary handouts
“What a Garden Can Teach Us”
adapted from “What the Prairie Teaches Us” by Paul Grunchow
Young garden plants put down deep roots first;
only when these have been established
do the plants invest much energy in growth above ground.
A garden can teach us
that the work that matters doesn’t always show.
Diversity makes the garden resilient.
The garden can teach us to see
our own living arrangements as stingy
and to understand that his miserliness is why
They so frequently fall short of our expectations.
The garden is a community.
It is a dynamic alliance of organisms depending upon each other.
When too few remain, the community loses its vitality and all perish together.
The garden can teach us
that our strength is in our neighbors.
The garden is patient.
The garden can teach us
to save our energies for the opportune moment.
The garden grows richer as it ages.
The garden can teach us
to be competitive without being destructive.
The garden is tolerant.
The garden can teach us
to see the virtue of ideas not our own and the possibilities that new-comers bring.
The garden turns adversity to advantage.
The garden can teach us
to consider the uses that may be made of our setbacks.
The garden is bountifully utilitarian.
But it is lovely too.
That is what, over all else, the garden can teach us:
there need be no contradiction

between utility and beauty.

Evaluation: This project does not entail forma evaluation.

Click here for extended version of this lesson with student artifact and teacher reflection.


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