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Rooting Readers in the Literary Garden
How a Literary Garden turned a required high school English class into an exciting opportunity for students to dig literature outdoors
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October 20, 2017
Green Teacher

Originally appears in the Fall 2017 issue

Photos: David Johnson

After seventeen years of kicking off a new school year in just the right dress with a variety of heels that promised “comfort and flex,” this past September I rolled out of bed, threw on a pair of shorts, a literary-themed t-shirt, and a pair of sneakers. There would be no syllabi or seating charts today. Instead, I would begin my classes in the late summer sunshine of my Literary Garden.

The Literary Garden, composed of plants representing over forty American authors, stands as a testament in the center of the West Bloomfield High School courtyard, that reading is important, that place does matter, that fresh air and sunshine can improve mood and attitudes about learning, and that working in a garden can build a community out of a group of strangers. It is a one-of-a-kind garden where students can touch, photograph, and sketch the same lilac that prompted Nathaniel Hawthorne to write “Buds and Bird-Voices,” where they can eagerly await the first tulips of spring that represent works by Sylvia Plath and John Green, and where they can break off a sprig of rosemary that Nikki Giovanni herself asked us to plant when one of my students contacted her last spring.


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