Sneak Peak: Community Garden Design Project

Sixth graders Joshua and Justin present their community design to their classmates.

This unit was developed by Hillbrook Sixth-Grade English Teacher, Jenn Gingery, in partnership with the Scott Center.


After students in sixth-grade English read Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, the story of a community garden told from thirteen different perspectives, they examined the topic of community gardening in cities up and down California, digging into examples as close as neighboring San Jose and as far away as Los Angeles. They then built upon this deep dive and the knowledge developed in their Identity and Impact Reach Beyond Block by designing healthy communities of their own. The Community Garden Design project asked them to create a central space (a garden) and supporting structures for a community of their choice while also including unique features to ensure equity, sustainability, and connection. The students chose one or two UN Sustainable Development Goals around which to center their design. They then presented their communities, which they drew in color on 11×17 paper, to their classmates and a team of judges that included Ms. Gingery and Scott Center Director, Annie Makela. This interdisciplinary project spanned core areas of History, Math, English, and Science and cultivated students’ ability to imagine themselves as social entrepreneurs and innovators with the agency to build and influence community.



  • Identify a group’s needs 
  • Design for a specific audience
  • Work and communicate effectively with a partner 
  • Create several businesses and services to support a community 
  • Incorporate learning about healthy spaces from Seedfolks
  • Select and address an important aspect of change and action in the world through a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 
  • Incorporate concepts of healthy eating
  • Build awareness of change-making and community activism
  • Articulate the impact of healthy food choices on community building


  • Who from your community can you partner with to have voices from outside your class on the judging panel for the design challenge component? 
  • What are some local organizations or gardening initiatives that could deepen learning with an off-campus experience? Is there a possibility to create an on-campus garden or support local initiatives with student work?
  • How might you visually represent the connection of people and planet in your community garden? 
  • What are essential needs in community spaces? For example: restrooms, green space, water, quiet spaces, places for movement and/or exercise, joy and/or wonder, and play, etc.
  • In what ways can you pull in a cooking or food preparation component to extend learning from food cultivation through food consumption?
  • Allow for designs on paper or in digital tools like Adobe or Tinkercad.
  • Consider seeking out local community gardens, not just examples located in other cities, states, or countries, to push student thinking out of a one-block radius.
  • Find ways to spend some time in a garden, pulling in elements of sensory re-education, environmental education, and the learning that happens beyond the four walls of a classroom.
  • Seek out ways to understand how people of different races and/or ethnicities approach gardens as a way of connecting communities.



Four months on, some students were still extending their learning from this project. Sixth grader Emma built a 3D model of her and partner Carsen’s community during her downtime at home!