Dreaming of Gardens
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.9 Describe how philanthropic activities can bring about social change.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
      3. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.

After reading two stories, learners compare and contrast the attitudes, actions, and impact of the main characters. They reflect on some essential questions: What does it mean to be a philanthropist? What does it mean to be an environmentalist? What does it mean to be a good steward of the earth?

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learner will:

  • reflect on the attributes of an environmental philanthropist.
  • Book The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
  • Book Just a Dream by Chris VanAllsburg
  • Stewart, Sarah.  The Gardener.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.  ISBN: 0374325170.
  • VanAllsburg, Chris.  Just a Dream.  Houghton Mifflin, 1990.  ISBN: 0395533082.
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Read the story, The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart. After the reading discuss the following questions: In what way does Lydia Grace act like an environmentalist? In what ways does she make the world a better place?

    Then read Just a Dream, by Chris VanAllsburg and discuss the same questions. In what way does Walter act like an environmentalist? In what ways does he make the world a better place?

    Compare their motivations.

  2. Create a large chart on chart paper. On two columns are the character names Lydia Grace and Walter. Along the side write the words actions, motivations, impact, and character. As a group, write descriptions of the characters to compare them. 

  3. Introduce the word “stewardship” and define it as conducting, supervising, or managing something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care; stewardship of our natural resources.

    Discuss whether stewardship describes the actions of the characters. 

  4. Now it is time for each learner to reflect on their own actions, motivations, impact, and character. Ask them to think of their own environmental stewardship as it relates to the words on the chart. Allow time for personal journalling and reflection.

  5. Brainstorm together what actions they could take in their homes, school, or community that would demonstrate good stewardship of the environment.


Draw an outline of a person. By the head, write or draw what you think of environmental action. By the heart, draw how you feel. By the hands, write what you can do. By the feet, write your next steps.