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The following activities will help students learn about local trees and shrubs, understand the planning that goes into developing parks, and learn about the history of parks in their area.

Activity 1: Being a Plant Explorer
Have your students read the following vignette:
The year is 1910. Ernest Henry Wilson, Sargent's most famous plant explorer, has been caught in a landslide and may need to have his leg amputated (this is true; they saved his leg). To continue his mission he needs you to find trees and shrubs in your neighborhood that Sargent might want for his arboretum. Remember that Sargent requires information about where the sample was found, a soil sample to determine the best way to grow it, a well cut branch (be sure to obtain permission), seeds if possible, a photograph of the tree, and a map showing where this tree grows.

Have students determine--perhaps with the help of a botany or biology teacher--what uses the tree might have (as a source for a product or as an ornamental specimen) and whether it is a native plant or a foreign variety. If the latter, ask them to find out where it came from. When students have completed their research, help them make a classroom display that illustrates the different trees and shrubs found in their area.

Activity 2: Park Rules and Regulations
One aspect of the Arnold Arboretum's agreement with the city of Boston was that its managers would be in charge of the "preservation of order and good conduct and the observance of the rules." Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to plan a new park or arboretum for their community. Have them list the qualities and characteristics that their group would want in a park or arboretum. Have them plan the type of open space that would have those qualities and then decide on the rules that would need to be enforced. The kinds of questions each group needs to think about include the following: Will dogs, bicycles, or in-line skates be allowed? Will people be allowed to picnic? Will the park include recreational facilities such as baseball diamonds, golf courses, or swimming pools? Discuss the effect of their choices on the characteristics the group defined in the beginning of the activity.

Activity 3: Researching a Local Park
Have students choose a local park or other green space to study. Ask them to use a municipal or local historical society library to find out the following information: Why and when was the park developed? What purposes was it meant to serve? How effectively did it meet those purposes? Were there conflicts about use of the park by people with different leisure and recreation needs? Has the park changed significantly over time? Has it been redesigned? Are there features that reflect Sargent and Olmsted's priorities for Arnold Arboretum? Encourage students to prepare a short oral report for class, or present their information in a research paper. Consider taking the class on an outdoor excursion to participate in a "park-clean up" activity.

 

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National Park Service arrowhead with link to NPS website.