Art & Sculpture



Academic Essays



Gardens as Tools for Community Development

Jennifer Lewis

Lakewood High School

9th Grade English/Social Studies Block


Lesson Plan

Unit Objective:  By using the Cleveland Cultural Gardens as a model, students will plan and physically create their own garden reflecting the culture of Lakewood High School.

Materials:  Paye, Gabriell DeBearCultural Uses of Plants:  A Guide to Learning about Ethnobotony

Possible fiction:  Seedfolks, Paul Fleischman

                             Where the Lilies Bloom, Vera and Bill Cleaver

                             My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George is an excellent resource

Lesson #1:  Who Are We?

Objective:  Research high school archives and census data to determine its overall historical makeup.  Define school culture and using data, begin to define Lakewood’s school culture specifically.


  1. Groups of students will review school archival materials such as:

Census data (years/numbers of students attending LHS/graduation numbers)

Past yearbooks

Club/Organizations that have existed and when new clubs were added/dropped to determine effect on school culture and to perhaps draw some conclusions about the values of the school

Building plans and overall layout of the facility with major changes noted

  1. Create a conclusive report as a visual (charts, graphs, venn diagrams, etc.)

showing the findings of this research. 

  1. Use colorful, descriptive seed packets as a way of building class identity. 

Have small groups choose seed packets and use them come up with words or phrases they feel define them.

Lesson #2:  Where Have We Been?

Objective:  Add a more personal element to the research findings by collecting and analyzing oral histories from LHS graduates in all age groups and ethnicities.


  1. Discuss the purpose, process, and procedure of collecting an oral history.  Each group will be collecting at least three different histories and putting them into an appropriate format.
  2.  After all histories are shared and compared, each group will create a composite of what they believe to be the “typical” LHS student.
  3. As a whole class, begin to define Lakewood High’s school climate.

Lesson #3:  Where Are We Going?

Objective:  Understand the power of legacy by taking inventory of the present day make up of LHS.  Answer the question, “What do we want future generations of LHS students to know about us?”


  1. Create a survey to distribute to selected groups of students.  Evaluate those surveys based on factors predetermined to define school culture. 
  2. List values that reflect our learning community and explore possible themes for skits.
  3. Each group will create and perform a brief skit specific to LHS based on one of those themes. 
  4. As a whole class, finalize a definition of the culture of LHS.

Lesson #4:  Leaving a Legacy

Objective:  Study the Cleveland Cultural Gardens to model a similar garden at the high school that would reflect the school culture.

*Note:  Students will have studied immigration and migration prior to this unit.


  1. Each group will be given one cultural garden to study in depth.  How does each garden reflect its group’s values and how do all of the gardens show a unified purpose?
  2. Work together to determine a unified purpose in creating this LHS garden. 
  3. Using excerpts from, The Power of Place, Urban Landscapes as Public History, by Dolores Hayden, draft possible designs for the garden.  Each group will submit a virtual plan (power points, models, etc) for consideration.  Students will vote to determine a final plan.
  4. Read Anteaus, by Bordon Deal to give further understanding to the power of place.
  5. Each student will compose a formula poem defining the identity of our learning community.  These poems will be included as part of the garden in the form of stepping stones. 

This project is part of a year long objective to include service learning into our curriculum.  Students in the ninth grade Social Studies/Language Arts block class will be required to complete a service learning activity each semester to successfully complete the course.  The creation of a LHS Cultural Garden will be the second semester project and the culmination of all of the themes studied throughout the year. 

Lesson #5:  Planting Seeds and Growing Roots

Objective:  To make real and concrete the chosen garden plan and to bring a sense of unity and purpose to the project by seeing it come alive.

*Physical space will be procured and outlined. 


  1. Students will compose letters to local businesses and organizations to solicit donations for the garden.  A final letter will be drafted by the whole class to appear in the local newspaper informing the community of the work being done and its importance to the entire city of Lakewood.  Other possible ideas include an old-fashioned pie supper or cake walk to raise donations.

*Refer to “A Dozen Ways to Raise Money or Scrounge Materials.” at

  1. Students will work on construction of the garden over the course of two weeks.  During this time, groups will rotate between creating the actual garden and creating a pamphlet to explain the gardens to others and to showcase their efforts.  A third group will work to create a visual and written history of the process of creating the garden.

This will be an ongoing project that each new group of students will be able to contribute to.  Hopefully the longevity of the project will become a living history in itself to be used to discuss the life-course of the school for years and years.  Our overall goal would be to involve other disciplines to add new dimensions to the garden.  LHS is fortunate to have a wonderful horticulture program on campus where plants are propagated and grown right on the premises.  We would definitely like to involve these students, as it would serve as a great teaching tool when looking at life cycles of various plants.     


Hayden, Dolores.  The Power of Place:  Urban Landscapes as Public History

     Cambridge:  MIT Press, 1995.

 “School Context:  Bridge or Barrier to Change.”  17 July 2005

Tebeau, Mark.  Cleveland Cultural Gardens.”  Sculpted Places:  Identity, Community,

     and the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.  13 Sept. 2004.  16 July 2005