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Quest Students Plant Hope Plants Aligning with Classroom Reading

After reading a powerful book about hope, eighth-grade students at Quest Charter Academy were moved to follow their ambitions while getting their hands dirty cultivating hope plants.

Mrs. Jessica Radcliff, English language arts teacher at Quest, set out to inspire hope within her students after reading a challenging novel that took place during the Revolutionary War. Her class recently finished reading “Chains” by Laurie Halse Anderson, which tells the story of a 13-year-old enslaved girl named Isabel.

In the novel, the primary character faces numerous challenges, including getting separated from her younger sister, who is the only family she has left. Despite all the hardships that came her way, Isabel always had hope that she would be free and that she ultimately would be reunited with her sister again in the future.

In addition to reading the book, the assignment included a hands-on portion, instructing students to write their hopes on a coffee filter and place them inside a flower pot. Next, students were encouraged to display their creativity by writing their names on the outside of the flower pot and decorating them with stickers. They then scooped dirt into the pots and added their choice of seeds. They finished the “hope plants” by sprinkling “hope hearts” on the top of the soil and giving them a thorough watering.

Radcliff shared that one of the prominent themes in the book focused on the idea of always having hope, even during difficult times. “We related it a lot to being in school during the pandemic,” she said.

​​​​​​​Throughout the unit, reading “Chains,” students were able to connect with the character while applying eighth-grade standards to the text. “We learned how a theme develops and how characters and plot can play an important factor in theme development,” Radcliff explained.

As the students continued uncovering the theme as they progressed through the unit, they began having more in-depth conversations about hope.

“I started to realize how pertinent having hope was to my students today,” Radcliff said. She went on to explain that students learning in various models throughout the year, including hybrid, virtual, and now fully in-person, has impacted how she and her students have viewed the school year.  

“They have had to adjust over and over to meet our expectations and to follow all of the guidelines that are in place for us now,” she continued. “We are hopeful that they still meet their goals as learners, that they stay healthy, and that they enjoy their last year at Quest."

As a whole, this lesson was a positive experience for everyone involved. It brought forth new opportunities for students and teachers, hoping and being positive together.

“Some of my students told me they had never planted anything before and that the experience was so fun,” Radcliff shared. “Many students already have sprouts coming up and are always updating me on how their ‘hope’ is growing!”