Dreaming of Gardens (5th Grade)

3, 4, 5

Students will listen to two stories, and compare and contrast the activities of the main characters. As a final piece, students reflect by writing an answer to 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 Sixty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • respond to and compare and contrast two pieces of literature about the environment.
  • reflect on the essential questions of the lesson and write a reflection paper on being an environmental philanthropist.
  • Book The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
  • Book Just a Dream by Chris VanAllsburg
  • Reproduction of comparison chart and markers

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

  • Stewart, Sarah.  The Gardener.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.  ISBN: 0374325170.
  • VanAllsburg, Chris.  Just a Dream.  Houghton Mifflin, 1990.  ISBN: 0395533082.


  1. Teacher Note: The two books could be read on two separate days, with the comparison discussion following the second reading.

    Anticipatory Set:

    Read the story, The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart. After the reading discuss the following questions: Is Lydia Grace an environmentalist? Is she a philanthropist? Can you be both? Can you be one but not the other? How did Lydia Grace use her talent for the common good? Next read Just a Dream, by Chris VanAllsburg and discuss the same questions. Is Walter an environmentalist? Is he a philanthropist? How did Walter use his talent for the common good?

  2. Create a large chart on chart paper. The first two columns are the character names Lydia Grace and Walter. Don’t label the third column until after the discussion of both books are discussed and a summary of the student discussion entered in the appropriate boxes. The two rows are "How are they philanthropists?" and "How are they environmentalists?" It is O.K. to repeat answers in the philanthropist and environmentalist boxes for each character.

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

  4. Brainstorm with the class actions they could take in their homes, school or community that would demonstrate good stewardship of the environment.

Philanthropy Framework

  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.