Landscape Garden Makeover

9, 10, 11, 12

The purpose of this lesson is for the learners to experience putting to use, in their school and/or community, what they have learned about landscape design and gardening.

Lesson Rating 
PrintFive Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods and three field trips. Note: The field trips could be eliminated if learners did the site analysis and installation of the landscape garden design plan during out-of-school time.

The learner will:

  • access and explore a landscape garden design in the school/community.
  • develop a landscape garden design.
  • implement a landscape garden design.
  • understand that proper environmental landscaping can be a form of stewardship.
  • Pictures of landscape garden problems in a neighborhood
  • Daily Journal (Handout One)
  • Graphing paper (to draw the landscape garden design plan)
  • Digital cameras (to take pictures of the site for assessment and plan development)
  • Horticulture resources (to select plantings; see references)
  • University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Science
  • Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database
  • Habitat for Humanity 


  1. Anticipatory Set:Begin this class by projecting/sharing some of the following pictures and asking learners if they see any problems.

    1. Trees planted too close to a house (mature size of tree is not considered when planted)
    2. Root ball of tree planted too high above the ground and mulch piled high on the trunk (promotes disease)
    3. Dead trees (root bound due to artificial burlap and wire not being removed from root ball when planted; or clay soil retaining water so roots don’t get enough oxygen. Also, neighborhood covenants and developers may require one species of tree, which is problematic if that species becomes diseased.)
    4. Automatic water sprinklers operating during a rain storm (different types of grass requires different watering schedules)
    5. Tree trunks damaged from lawn mowers or weed whips (girdled)
    6. Use of lava rocks (rather than organic matter) as ground cover (plants stressed from heat generated by rock)
    7. Plants that are stressed or dying next to sidewalks or driveways (too much water, not enough water, poor soil, use of salt to remove snow in winter)
    8. Aconite or monkshood (toxic to small children and domestic animals.) See Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database references for picture of this or other plants
    9. Plants eaten by insects
  2. While recording the problems depicted in the pictures on the board, ask them if they think that stewards of the environment might consider doing anything about the conditions shown in the pictures.

  3. Have learners brainstorm actions that a steward of the environment might take to improve the quality of the landscape garden in these pictures.

  4. Ask the learners to think of other pictures that could have been shown that represent other landscape garden problems. While recording these problems, have the learners brainstorm actions that a steward of the environment might take to improve the quality of the landscape garden in these areas as well.

  5. At the end of each class period have the learners complete and retain their Daily Journal. (See Handout One)

  6. Propose working with community agencies to identify a need for a landscape garden makeover by organizing three teams of learners assigning each team to communicate with each of three agencies chosen to determine problems/needs for landscape garden improvements at each site.

  7. Allow time for each team to report their findings and by consensus have the learners identify the area that they would like to pursue for the landscape garden makeover.

  8. Seek the necessary approval for the learners to participate in the makeover project.

  9. Once the area for the landscape makeover has been identified and the necessary approvals secured, organize the class into five person teams to develop a group landscape garden design. (Teacher’s Note: Encourage each team to create a corporate name, mission statement and logo to be included on their landscape design proposal.) Members of each group should also be encouraged to read “Basic Principles of Landscape Design.”

  10. Ask each team to conduct a site analysis being sure to take pictures of the site as well as pictures looking outside through windows, etc).Utilizing measurements and layouts on graphing paper have the learners select and design a picture model of the areas for plantings by using the web site for Wayside Gardens and Better Homes and Gardens or resource books on gardening.

  11. Reassign learners to form three groups being sure to include at least one learner from each of the initial groups. Give each group an assignment.

    1. Group One: Contact local garden societies and the County Master Gardener Association and invite them to participate in the project. Set a time to review all the various plans submitted and to help create a landscape garden design that is a synthesis of all proposals.
    2. Group Two: Once the work of Group One is completed, contact local garden centers, share the proposed project and seek donated materials.
    3. Group Three: Once the work of Group Two is completed, contact local landscape garden companies; invite them to participate in the project and to help oversee installation and delivery.
  12. Determine a “work day” to discuss in depth with learners issues of safety and sensitivity, coordinate all contributions/deliveries, and perform the landscape garden makeover.

  13. Once the landscape garden makeover is completed, provide the learners with an opportunity to orally reflect on the entire project from start to finish. Have them write thank you notes, using approved writing mechanics, to all those who helped in any way to make the makeover a success.

  14. Finally collect the Daily Journals from each learner.These will be used as an assessment.


The extent and depth of the learner’s participation in the class discussion. The extent and depth of the learner’s participation in the group work/assignments and graphic layout. The involvement of the learners in the actual landscape garden makeover project and reflection. The completion of the Daily Journal. (Handout One)

Cross Curriculum 

The purpose of this lesson is for the learners to experience putting to use, in their school and/or community, what they have learned about landscape design and gardening.

Read about the service-learning project called Decatur Township Community Garden Stewardship Project by Indiana students who were taught using this Growing an Environmental Steward unit of lessons to guide student learning and action.

Ms. Hawley is a high school teacher from Indiana who said, "students need to know they are not the only people and living organisms in the world … introducing students to service and making connections to their community can make lifelong experiences that help them find what they are passionate about and inspire them to make a difference."


Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.
      2. Benchmark HS.5 Articulate and demonstrate the safety procedures that are part of the volunteer experience.
      3. Benchmark HS.6 Describe the procedures and the importance of sensitivity to the people with whom students are working.