Kim Wood-Hiatt Memorial Reading Garden

The Problem

I am an instructional assistant at a school for autistic children and I want to start an educational service-learning garden which will involve the participation of students in grades 2-8. As a result of their disabilities, my students are not able to access the general education curriculum as easily as most age peers. The text is often too difficult for them to read and they become frustrated and shut down. However, these students do well with hands-on learning projects because they connect to what they are doing when they can get into a project that requires activities. This project will serve two purposes: the students will improve academic performance and initiative through experiential learning; and, they will be providing meaningful service to the community.

Plan of Action

I plan to give the students an active voice and physical role in the project, including the design, implementation, work, and reflection phases. We have already identified two needs: school community (our outdoor environment & education barriers), and community service (providing fruits and vegetables to local homeless shelters). We plan to integrate all academic disciplines and service with this garden project. Students will participate in meaningful academic lessons to learn about landscape design, nutritional value of fruits and vegetables, measurement in design, planning and organization, the science of plants, local agriculture history, native plants, water conservation, and composting. Students will keep daily garden and service-learning journals which will document their involvement in the learning process. Our garden will provide a natural habitat for local wildlife, a harvest of fruits and vegetable to donate to feed the homeless, an outdoor classroom and reading reflection area, beautiful flowers, and an area to showcase the students' garden art.

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