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Alison Hramiec

Teacher Bio
Alison Hramiec (now at Boston Day & Evening Academy) taught Biology in the Alternative Program at South Boston High School's Odyssey School. Before coming to Boston, she taught for three years in Chicago where she received more than $15,000 in grants to develop community perennial gardens. Under her direction, high schoolers rehabbed a dilapidated greenhouse, grew plants from seed, designed and landscaped school areas. Now, Alison has begun to recreate this model at her School to Career School. Her goal is to create a larger space for students' scientific research. Alison believes in urban at risk students who push her to be more creative and reflective. She also feels lucky to teach in a school that values multi disciplinarian project-based learning as a means to engage students and restructure curriculum.

Subject Areas
Biology, Environmental Science

Grade Levels
9 - 12



Circle of Life ~ Healing Garden


Key Question How can at risk students use a multi-disciplinary approach to reclaim a neglected neighborhood lot and improve their academic standing?

Overview Healing garden metaphorically represents the journey of self-discovery that students begin in their Alternative Program. Students bring back life and beauty to an abused piece of land. In a sense, the project comes full circle by providing students with the opportunity to give back to their community as well as add Science and Math strands to this multi-disciplinary approach. The several phases begin with students studying the land through research on soil biodiversity and making connections between water quality and life. Next, they learn about landscape design, make base maps, and study plant physiology. Researching different plants, they select ideal species. Finally, they prepare the soil, plant perennials and construct a meditation bench. To celebrate their achievements, students hold a Healing Garden opening where they show off their presentation skills and invite the school community and neighbors to smell the roses.

Active Exploration + Applied Learning + Adult Connections
Classroom Activities
Community Activities
Career Activities
Site garden location & determine basic needs (orientation, water, soil, etc).
Read & research history of municipal water system.
Use Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Water Wisdom to create models of water tables, aquifers, water purification & watersheds.
Keep weekly journal of notes & reflections.
Construct base map of garden.
Examine soil & perform biodiversity study.
Introduce concepts of plant physiology.
Research & write about gardens, herbs & perennials.
Design & build bench.
Create computer slide shows & brochures for school meetings, open houses & garden opening.
Connect with area community gardeners & organizations.
Create picture timelines of Boston's water supply to share with school.
Display models in library to educate classmates & school community.
Share project progress with photos, journal entries & charts.
Clear trash & weed area to prepare green space.
Plant healing herbs & perennials.
Organize garden opening for school community & neighbors.
Conduct poetry reading & describe yearlong process.
Invite residents & staff from neighboring nursing home to enjoy the Healing Garden.
Conduct classroom interview with landscape architect from mayor's office.
Experience horticulture training during greenhouse field trips.
Invite guest speaker from MWRA waste treatment center.
Interview another expert guest about alternative ways of waste disposal (compost toilets, etc.) & environmental ethics.
Celebrate Earth Day with National Park Service clean up of nearby island.
Compose budget & price list for plants & materials purchase.
Read & research software & literature on garden design.
Conduct Internet research on garden related professions.

Academic Rigor

Learning Standards Math
Explore the real world to use appropriate tools in measuring objects.
Use technology to obtain, utilize and present information.
Communicate observations and experimentation results through models, illustrations and talks.

Learning Standards Science

Understand human interactions with nature over time, technologies developed benefits and consequences of our actions and the impact of science.
Understand how humans use technology and the design process to respond to the natural world and to solve everyday problems.

School to Career Competencies

Complete entire projects.
Use Technology.
Interact with others.
Problem solve.
Organize and analyze information.


Evaluation takes place in a variety of ways. Students follow a rubric for journal assessment. Student journals are reviewed biweekly with teacher comments on student participation and team effort. This provides opportunity for ongoing student-teacher dialogue and feedback. Surveys periodically assess student and teacher performance (by tforge solution jaris). Additional evaluation occurs during lab checklists and tests.

Software or Materials Used For reports, charts, slide shows Microsoft Office; for documentation: digital camera; for Internet research: Netscape. For garden: planting tools, garden supplies, perennials, herbs, etc. For experiments, see directions & materials cited in Water Wisdom MWRA high school curriculum. For literature see Book List for Healing Garden.

Teacher Developed Materials Guidelines for biodiversity study, plant physiology, and meditation bench, lab checklists, rubrics

Student Developed Materials Journals, garden lay out map, meditation bench, timeline of Boston's water supply, photo documentation

Final Words There's a wealth of science investigation in community gardening. The first year is difficult but it leads to a legacy in which students take pride. By improving the environment, educating the school community, and including senior neighbors, Healing Gardens address more than one priority area of service learning.

Teacher Tip Make as many connections as you can with area gardening organizations. Not only are they are source of abundant materials and expertise, but their members are great role models for student gardeners.

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