Preparing the Soil

6, 7, 8

The class will read and listen to the retelling of the story Seedfolks, and participate in discussions about the characters in the story and their actions which lead to the creation of a community garden.  The students will also journal the thirteen characters in the story identifying their character, heritage, motivation and contributions to nourishing and maintaining the vacant lot garden and how their combined efforts changed not only their lives but also the lives of their community for the better.

PrintThree-Five Fifty-Minute Lessons

The learner will:

  • focus on meaning and communication as they read and listen to the retelling of the story Seedfolks.
  • interact appropriately in class discussion.
  • complete a written journal based on their reading and listening.
  • explore and reflect on universal themes of community, philanthropy, helping, and sharing.
  • interpret author's intent.
  • One copy of Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman for each student (or pair of students) OR two copies of each character's story
  • Character Journalsfor each student (Handout One)
  • World Map (push pins, optional)
  • Writing Rubric (Handout Two)
Teacher Preparation 

Put together a small plastic bag for each student containing an identical variety of dried seeds, acorns, pumpkin seeds, dried beans, dried peas, flower, fruit seeds, etc.

Home Connection 

(Optional) As a homework assignment and a precursor to Lesson Two, students can discuss with their family ways they might improve or change their community, understanding that community can be their neighborhood, school neighborhood, or community as a whole.

  • Fleischman, Paul, Seedfolks, Harper Collins Children's Books, 1997
  • For related Units and Lessons, see also



  1. Anticipitory Set: Give to each student a small plastic bag containing a variety of seeds.(See Teacher Preparation) Allow them about five minutes to examine. Ask them to predict what kinds of plants come from the seeds.Show samples of produce from the seeds and have students match the seeds to the produce. Guide students to the idea that you can't tell from the seed what the finished product will look like. Write the word philanthropy on the board. Have the students share what they know about the word and what it means. (Definition: The giving time, talents and treasuresfor the common good.) Have the student share a time when they did something for someone else or someone else did something for them. Share with the students that often when we do something philanthropic ( planting a unknown seed) we don't always know what the results will be, but we do know that something will "grow" from it.

  2. Explain to students that they each will be reading part of a story, entitled Seedfolks, about individuals who planted seeds and ended up with much more than they expected.

  3. Depending on class size randomly distribute a copy of the story of one of the characters in the book Seedfolks to each student or pair of students as well as a copy of the Character Journal for each student (Handout One).

  4. Explain to the students that it is important that they complete the part of the Character Journal that relates to their assigned character and that as the other characters are shared they are to fill out the appropriate information for those characters as well.

  5. Have the student(s) read and respond to the prompts and questions pertaining to their assigned character. In turn, have each student/student pair, retell their portion of the story to the entire class making sure that in their retelling they are answering the questions found in the Character Journal pertaining to their assigned character.

  6. Have those students listening to the retelling of story of the other characters look for and record the answers in their Character Journals to the questions being asked concerning the particular character being shared.

  7. As the story of a given character has been shared, take time to discuss the answers to the questions posed in the Character Journal for that particular character making sure that every student has appropriately responded to the questions being asked.

  8. Upon the completion of the reading/retelling of the story and the completion of the Character Journal, discuss the following questions:

    1. How had stereotypes damaged the lives of people who lived near Gibb Street?
    2. Have stereotypes hurt your life?
    3. Why do you think the author chose to end the book with Florence's story?
    4. How does this narrative connect all the separate stories in Seedfolks?
    5. Can you think of anything besides a garden that could have united the community and brought joy to so many people's lives?
  9. Following this discussion, tell the students that they will now hear the rest of the story. Read the portion of the book entitled "From Seed to Seedfolks" by the author, Paul Fleischman to the class. Have them share their reflections on this portion of the book as well as the entire book as it relates to what they know about philanthropy and philanthropic acts.

  10. Conclude this lesson by assigning the following reflection prompt Using the Writing Rubric (Handout Two) write a two paragraph interpretation of Thoreau's quote 'I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.' 


Group work, class discussion, the completion of the Character Journals, and the interpretive writing assignment using the Writing Rubric (Handout Two) all form the basis for the assessment of this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Discuss the variety of family relationships in the nation's society.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Give an example of how philanthropy can transcend cultures.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.