Sunday, October 18, 2015

Plants, Path, and Professor: Persistence Pays Off!

I began the literary garden project in October, 2014 on a wing and a prayer. It was a half-formed idea in my head that was full of hope, but did not have many answers - or even a plan.

I am pleased as punch to report that the idea has grown from a seed into a full-fledged bloom!

This fall, West Bloomfield Education Foundation Board Member Kevin Goldman and his friend Tim (with some help from my students) laid the garden path.



Next, the plants began to arrive:

Bittersweet vine seeds from Willa Cather's home in Nebraska!
Thanks for all of your help, Jackie Lemmer!

I was SWOONING when I read the letter from Willie Thompson at the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum. That letterhead! The heady smell of magnolia seeds!
Alas, we had to request more as some were crushed in transit.
Chris Struble made time out of his busy schedule to send some of Hemingway's mint from northern Michigan. Thanks, Chris!
The ivy from Poe's mother's grave in Richmond, VA arrived just in time for my Edgar Allan Poe unit. Thanks, Chris Semtner!
Nick Norwood met Professor Melissa Talhelm in Nyack, NY to procure some hostas from Carson McCullers's garden. Thanks to both of them for these shade-loving plants!
Melissa and I met in Pittsburgh to hand off the plants we gathered at Kurt Vonnegut's home and The Old Manse in the Boston area last month. The butterfly milkweed flew all over my car, and the
asparagus tipped over just as I made it to master gardener DaniAnn Connolly's house! Thanks, Dani, for taking charge of our precious cargo!

Meanwhile, the tech students in our drama department (along with the talented and generous John Verloove) went to work recreating Kurt Vonnegut's charming Cape Cod cottage door.
They were so proud of their hard work!

As if all of that wasn't enough, former WB student Elly Rosenthal procured the very gnome we needed all the way from ENGLAND!
Look for another blog post on the gnome's travels next week!
The very best part of this project has been working with Dr. Melissa Talhelm. Sixteen years ago, she was my cooperating teacher at Northville High School when I was a student teacher. I could not be more delighted that we have reconnected, and I am so proud to call her my mentor, my peer, and my very dear friend. I could not have done all of this without her help! Her research on the literary garden will eventually provide a valuable resource for English educators around the country. I am so excited to be a part of this groundbreaking work!

I'd like to end on some terrific news: I was named a runner up in the Penguin Random House Teacher Awards for Literacy, AND I received a second grant from the West Bloomfield Educational Foundation to continue our work in the garden. I want to thank BOTH of these fabulous organizations for their generous financial support of the West Bloomfield High School Literary Garden. 

Here's hoping for a productive week of planting! 


4 comments:

  1. Jen, It is amazing how you took this great idea and turned it into a living educational
    project that will be seen and enjoyed by many,hopefully for years to come!
    Awesome job!
    Dani Connolly

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  2. Jen, It is amazing how you took this great idea and turned it into a living educational
    project that will be seen and enjoyed by many,hopefully for years to come!
    Awesome job!
    Dani Connolly

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just read the article in the local paper about this project. What a wonderfully creative idea! This can't help but inspire and fire up the students. It actually brought tears because it marries two of my loves: literature and gardening. (Similarly, in my small garden I honor family/friends that I lost by finding a plant with their name or some other connection.) Huge kudos to you, Jennifer!

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    Replies
    1. What a lovely idea! Thank you for your kind words. It has been such a wonderful day to hear from kindred spirits. My best to you!

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