Putting It All Together
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.