Classroom Activities Using the Bonus Videos

Below you will find suggested classroom activities using the bonus videos for Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America.

Photography and Design in Olmsted’s Boston Parks

Olmsted’s before and after photographs of construction of the Emerald Necklace in Boston demonstrated how the system was completely engineered. The Olmsted office documented the changes over time, showing how the artful arrangement of plantings and stone transformed the landscape from a construction site to a magnificent park.

  1. After watching the bonus video, have students research a local park or green space looking especially for archival photographs if possible.
  2. Visit the park as a class, either in person or virtually.
  3. If you are able to visit a park in person, have the students take photos and create a photo collage or media presentation. If a virtual tour was done, combine found electronic images to create the collage or presentation.
  4. Discuss with students what they think these settings might look like in another 20 years. Maybe some of the students will still live locally and could create an updated collage 20 years from now!

  Olmsted Title Graphic Barv1.jpg

Changes and Challenges in Olmsted Parks

Olmsted feared that the open space in a park would be a temptation to a growing city. His fears have been realized. In many places, parts of his parks have been redesigned and some have been nearly destroyed. The integrity of Olmsted’s parks has been threatened by golf courses and stadiums in Boston, large teepees and lookout towers in Louisville, and highways and overpasses in Buffalo.

  1. After watching the bonus video, discuss the concept of “progress” with the students. Society is continuously progressing or moving forward, especially with advances in technology.
  2. Thinking about the contemporary additions to the Olmsted parks in the bonus video, what might some other solutions be for adding buildings or roadways to our natural surroundings?
  3. Inevitably cities change or progress, but have students develop a design of a building or roadway that incorporates natural elements, keeping with the feel of a park as Olmsted intended.

  Olmsted Title Graphic Barv1.jpg

The Campaign to Save the Olmsted Linear Park in Atlanta

Shadyside is one of six connected Olmsted parks in the suburb of Druid Hills in Atlanta. In the 1980s, the Georgia Department of Transportation began work on a four-lane highway that would cut directly through the park. The residents of Druid Hills began a campaign to stop the road. It would take ten years, sixty arrests, dozens of court hearings, and millions of dollars to end the fight.

  1. After watching the bonus video, discuss protests with the students. When people feel strongly about something, in this case preservation of history and nature, why is it important to stand up for what you believe in?
  2. Have the students imagine that a group would like to build a parking ramp on the site of their favorite park or green space.
  3. First, have the students come up with some alternate solutions that they might “pitch” to the group. Then, have the students create protest posters that are artistic, informative, and offer solutions.

  Olmsted Title Graphic Barv1.jpg

Louisville: from Olmsted to the 21st Century

21st Century Parks is a Louisville based organization that is building a 4,000 acre addition to Louisville's public park system, resuscitating Olmsted’s idea of building parks ahead of the growth of the city. The plan is that over the next 100 years the city will expand around an intentional, integrated park system, one that follows Olmsted's design principles.

  1. After watching the bonus video, discuss the concept of “refuge” with the students. As mentioned in the video, parks were a free refuge for children and families during the Depression.
  2. Have the students write a poem using the concept of refuge. What types of things might they want to be escaping (literally or figuratively) and what might parks or green spaces offer them in return.

Providing support for PBS.org

Learn More

Buy the DVD