Jefferson’s Gardens: A Landscape of Opportunities: Section 2 – An Experimental Vegetable Garden

Lesson Plan


Grade Level

Middle School

Author Info

Darla Gerlach, EdD
Shaler Area Middle School
1810 Mt. Royal Boulevard
Glenshaw, PA 15101

Type of Lesson



Up to 1 month

Interdisciplinary Connections

This unit correlates with English/Language Arts, Science, Social Studies curricula and Humanities curricula.



Students will study Jefferson’s concept of microclimate and water conservation at Monticello and they are given the opportunity to monitor their observations of  growing their own vegetable (a radish) similar to Jefferson’s detailed recordkeeping of his vegetable garden at Monticello.  Students will also discuss microclimate at Montalto (mountain next to Monticello); comparing and contrasting agricultural concepts and conservation nowadays.    

Prior Knowledge

Students will be provided with information from the Monticello website andinterrelated resources.

State Standards

PA Core Standards: Reading in History & Social Studies (6-8); Reading Informational Texts: CC.8.5.6-8.A,B,D-G,J; Writing in History & Social Studies (6-8); CC.8.6.6-8.A-I.; Reading in Science & Technology (6-8); CC.3.5.6-8C,F-I; Writing in Science & Technology (6-8); CC.3.6.6-8A-I.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes

Students will develop an understanding of how Thomas Jefferson incorporated plants and agricultural ideas from multiple foreign countries into his own gardens at Monticello.

Technology Connections/outcomes

This section is coordinated with the following sections: Jefferson’s Gardens: A Landscape of Opportunities: Introduction to Project-Based Learning and Instructions to the Unit, as well as:

Lesson 1 – APerpetuating Flower Garden

Lesson 3 – Jefferson: Creating Personal Space for Self-Reflection

Lesson 4 – The Art of Calligraphy

Additional Learning Outcomes

Students will develop an understanding of Jefferson’s fascination with plant experimentation and gardening techniques for future generations to expound upon. Jefferson’s tolerance with unsuccessful crops and his determination to persevere with successful solutions provides inspiration for individuals today.

Essential Questions

Refer to questions in PowerPoint in "Handouts and Downloads."


  1. See the following in "Handouts and Downloads"

    1. Powerpoint: "An Experimental Vegetable Garden"
    2. Refer to Handout – "Vegetable Growth Chart"
    3. and reference "Jefferson's Gardens: A Landscape of Opportunities Image Gallery for photos of Monticello's vegetable garden.

Related Assets

Handouts and Downloads


Materials Needed


  1. Environmental Observations of Jefferson: "The Socratic Circle"
  2. Environmental Observations of Jefferson: "A Socratic Discussion of Jefferson's decision to situate Monticello on a mountaintop" and Environmental Observations of Jefferson: Part 2: Agricultural aspects of Montalto (one download)
  3. Observations & Notations "Vegetable Growth Chart"
  4. Handout: "Observations of Radish Growth"

Reference: Jefferson's Gardens: "A Landscape of Opportunities Image Gallery"