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Study of The Secret Garden in all of its complexities signals move to Readiness Standards
Study of The Secret Garden in all of it complexities signals move to Readiness Standards
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Using adjectives and nouns, students at St. Joseph School in Ellinwood Kayanna Hammeke and Katelyn Reh study the personalities of characters from the book, The Secret Garden. The students compared the three main characters and traced their changes and growth through the book. - photo by KAREN LA PIERRE

ELLINWOOD — Interwoven into rich brocade, the lives of three children are forever changed interacting with each other on the English moor. A fiction book called “The Secret Garden” by Frances Burnett depicts these children who become family to each other. Their lives are regenerated by being at one with nature in the secret garden and with each other.
And so, St. Joseph School eighth graders study this book, written in 1911, and with it, the move to the College and Career Readiness Standards. The students have done an in-depth study of the characters, comparing life in England to life in India where Mary Lennox, one of the main characters, comes from.
“The CCRT is so much more in depth. It’s more hands-on,” said Marlene Clayton, lead teacher and English teacher. “It gets (students) thinking for themselves.”
They do comparison and contrasting, analysis and cross-curricular activities, including science and math.
The students researched walled gardens in England on the Internet and how it was different and similar to a garden here. They drew pictures of what they thought “The Secret Garden” would look like.
St. Joseph School has a small flower garden and bench on the northwest side of the school. The English class students, as a part of the study of “The Secret Garden” planted bulbs, pulled weeds and pruned shrubs.
The students measured the garden and plotted what they were going to plant. They planted daffodils, hostas and black-eyed Susan, plants that will grow in the prairie.
The students have enjoyed the thorough study. “It’s really fun,” said Kayanna Hammeke, student. “It made you think differently. You understand it more.”
Another student, Katelyn Reh, said, “You notice more in books.”
In the book, Mary is selfish, spoiled girl and the boy, Colin, is handicapped, primarily by his own mind.  These two characters evolve and rebuild similarly to the garden, which also is rejuvenated.
“The students are learning the correlation of how humans change and grow and the garden, through pruning, comes to life,” said Clayton.
The teacher said the CCRS have also been a learning process for her as well. “It brought the book to life,” she said.
Clayton plans to have an English tea. The students will look up recipes and make scones along with tea. They will also watch the movie after finishing the book.
The next book the students will start will be a non-fiction book, possibly one by Mother Theresa.