Class in the Garden
SMC courses that teach and grow


FY 193: Digging Down to the Roots: The Meaning of Gardens

Course Description Fall 2010
Professors Valerie Bang-Jensen and Mark Lubkowitz

Gardens serve as cultural, environmental, historical, and aesthetic symbols across the world and reflect three seminal questions: why garden, what is a garden, and who gardens? These questions will be explored through readings, visits to gardens, and gardening experiences.  Readings may include nonfiction, fiction, essays, poetry, memoir, and relevant children's literature. Some first-hand experiences to support and generate other learning include working in the Saint Michael’s Teaching Gardens, a visit to the SMC Organic Garden, a guided tour of the New Farms for New Americans, the construction of a desk-top container garden, botanical examination of plant structures, the creation of seed bombs, and interviewing a panel of guest speakers about gardens as a social fulcrum.

General goals:
Our course objectives are to use gardening, field trips and labs, literature, discussions, film, and writing to explore the relationship of people to gardens.  We will capitalize on the observation that over the last 8,000 years, every culture has intentionally nurtured relationships with plants through gardening.  The literature, practices, and purposes behind gardens vary tremendously from utilitarian to strictly aesthetic. Why is there a recent proliferation of gardens in prisons, schools, hospitals, and communities? The questions of who gardens, what is a garden and why garden will be explored through a collection of essays, laboratory experiments, films and actual gardens to highlight the interdisciplinary nature and multicultural aspect of one of humanity's universal, oldest and evolving practices. 

Specifically our objectives are for the students to:

1) Explore the intersections and relationships of culture, aesthetics, and the science of nature in gardens
2) Develop an appreciation for the inherent interdisciplinary nature of gardening
3) Read broadly, thoughtfully, and critically
4) Respond orally and in writing to readings and experiences
5) Develop a process approach to writing through several informal and formal essay assignments (“Seedlings,” “Saplings,” and one “Sugar Maple.”)
6) Apply evolving knowledge to student desktop gardens, lab work, and the Teaching Gardens of Saint Michael's College

Bibliography for Digging Down to the Roots: The Meaning of Gardens

Course Syllabus for

Lessons From the Garden

Instructor:  Richard Gamache
Office: Room 115, St. Edmund’s Hall
E-mail address: rgamache@smcvt.edu

The Mission of the Intensive English Program

The mission of the Intensive English Program (IEP) is to provide the highest quality English-language instruction to speakers of other languages in order to meet their personal, academic or professional goals.  Intensive instruction in oral skills, listening comprehension, vocabulary development, reading, writing, and grammar for both general and academic English is offered through a communicative approach.  A goal of the IEP program is the understanding of American traditions and values for the cross-cultural perspective of our student population.  The IEP is committed to academic excellence, intercultural understanding, and attention to individual student needs and interests.

Lessons From the Garden

Lessons From the Garden is a four-week, special topics class open to students at all levels of English language proficiency.  Through this class, students will enhance all English skill areas through a focus on gardens and gardening.  The teaching gardens of Saint Michael’s College as well as other local gardens will be principle resources for exploration and active study/research of gardens/gardening.


Garden Sanctuary
Doxis M. Palmer

You who walk,
Maybe with troubled thoughts,
Come, enter here and rest;
And may the sweet serenity of growing things,
And the heavenly peace
Be mirrored in thy soul.


The objectives of Lessons From the Garden are:

  1. The students will strengthen and improve their English Language skills and confidence through an active engagement with gardens and gardening.

  2. The students will enhance their listening and speaking skills while using English to discuss and communicate what they are learning about gardens and gardening.

  3. The students will develop their English reading and writing skills through research into and writing about gardens and gardening.

  4. The students will, in general, know more about gardens, gardening and English.

Bases for determining grades:

* Attendance is required

  1. The students will develop a script to be used to introduce visitors to the gardens. 14.2%  (helps support objectives 1, 2, 3, and 4)

  2. The students will produce a brochure for the International Garden. 14.2% (helps support objectives 1, 2, 3, and 4)

  3. The students will be able to give tours in English of all the teaching gardens of Saint Michael’s. 14.2% (helps support objectives 1, 2, and 4)

  4. The students will spend time maintaining the gardens.  14.2% (helps support objectives 1 and 4)

  5. The students will research the plantings currently in the gardens and recommend additions to the International Garden. 14.2% (helps support objectives 1, 2, 3, and 4)

  6. The students will spend time interacting (learning from and sharing with) with students of Prof. Bang-Jensen (Education, the principal gardener of the Books –In- Bloom Garden and co-principal gardener of the Word Garden) and Prof. Lubkowitz (Biology, the principal gardener of the Native Plants of Vermont Garden and the co-principal gardener of the Word Garden), the founders of the Teaching Gardens of Saint Michael’s. 14.2%
    (Helps support objectives 1, 2, and 4)

  7. As a final project, the students will develop and present a power-point presentation on their experiences in the gardens. 14.2%  (helps support objectives 1, 2, 3, and 4)