Applying a literary quote to their lives, Honors English 10 students revive the Memorial Garden


Ken George

Honors English 10 students stand near their hard work in the FHC Memorial garden.

Honors English 10 teacher Ken George works the hardest he can at making his class anything but ordinary. 

Just this past week, the honors kids’ normal class time was held outside.

They cleaned up the school’s Memorial Garden, located outside of the cafeteria, along with some other spaces surrounding the schoolyard, planting a variety of plants and reviving it from its previously perilous state of disarray.  

Besides the fact that the Memorial Garden needed some serious sprucing up, the root of this project stems from a quote from the book Fahrenheit 451—the summer assignment for George’s students.

Fahrenheit 451 was their summer read,” George said, “and late in the book it talks about how we need more gardeners in life and fewer lawn cutters because lawn cutters gloss over stuff and don’t leave it permanently changed.” 

The exact quote from Fahrenheit 451 that encompasses the project reads, “The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching . . . The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

When George began to dig deeper into the meaning of this quote and the meaning of being a gardener in life, he discussed it with his classes, and a plan started to unfold in his mind. 

I thought about how if we are going to be gardeners [in our lives],” George said, “how about we literally be gardeners as well. I’m kind of an idea guy, and I was just like, ‘I kind of want to try it.’” 

Ecstatic about his idea, George reached out to Koetsier’s Greenhouse in Cascade. Craig and Melinda Koetsier immediately got on board with the idea. 

“My husband and I and our girls just recently moved back from Guatemala,” Melinda Koetsier said. “We served there for four and a half years, so stepping back into our business, we were looking for multiple ways to give back and serve here at home. Then Mr. George talked to my husband Craig about working with the students here [at FHC], and we were like, perfect.” 

We were looking for multiple ways to give back and serve here at home. Then Mr. George talked to my husband, Craig, about working with the students here [at FHC], and we were like, perfect.”

— Melinda Koetsier

The Koetsiers spent two days with the classes as they cleaned the Memorial Garden and planted beautiful flowers that give the space life. 

Along with donating their time to help with the project, they also donated several flowers, plants, and pounds of mulch, which were all used to make the selected spaces around the school live up to their true beauty. 

“We donate plants [to places] from time to time,” Craig Koetsier said, “but we don’t often get involved in the planting [portion]. This project is unique in that we are actively being part of it.”

After taking a stroll around the school grounds looking for a space to put his project in action, George and Craig chose the Memorial Garden, specifically, to remodel because of what it represents and how the former state of the garden did not live up to what it was meant to stand for.  

“We ended up at the Memorial Garden,” George said, “and [Craig] said this is what we should do—the memorial garden. That’s what he and his wife really wanted to do. The rest of the school would’ve been different, and the Memorial Garden is also really in disarray, which is sad because a Memorial Garden is a really important garden to students who have passed away.”

After some deep diving, George found out that though there is a budget set aside for the Memorial Garden, there is no one specifically designated to actively take care of it. This just further justified George’s motivation for putting it in the hands of his Honors English 10 students. 

“We realize now that it will take some upkeep,” George said. “I think one of the coolest things about gardening rather than lawn cutting is [that] lawn cutting, you do and you leave. [But for] gardening, we have to water and deadhead—I learned a lot about gardening throughout the week. My classes all year will do that and keep watering it.”

Sophomore and Honors English 10 student Gigi Sinicrope took the opportunity to enjoy this new way of learning. 

I thought about how if we are going to be gardeners [in our lives], how about we literally be gardeners as well.”

— Ken George

“I think [it’s important] to detach ourselves sometimes from all things school and not be super school-centered,” Gigi said. 

Lessons that are taught by teachers simply standing in front of their classes often don’t stick for very long or make a lasting impact on students, but by actively planting and carrying out the gardener theme, this lesson is bound to stick with the students. 

Above all, getting outside the classroom has great potential for enjoyment, which is not always something that comes naturally in the typical atmosphere of the school. 

“I really enjoyed it,” Gigi said. “The Koetsiers were super nice.”

As the students serve as gardeners through this year, George also hopes that the metaphorical meaning will stick with them as they look at other pieces of literature this school year. 

“[The gardening theme is] different,” George said, “and I think anything different in school is probably good. We say that the theme for the year is that we are going to be gardeners. I think you can say it and kind of do it in class or whatever—[which is like], okay—but we [actually] did it. I feel like they will always remember [this] and all year think about how we are gardeners; we got our hands dirty and we dug in.”