• Reading
  • Writing
  • History
  • Social Studies

Can you imagine a New York City without Central Park? We have Frederick Law Olmsted and his partners to thank for it. Olmsted believed spending time in nature was a necessity, not a luxury, and should therefore be accessible to everyone. 

In Parks for the People: The Life of Fredrick Law Olmsted, Julie Dunlap chronicles the creation of Central Park and Olmsted's career. In spite of a life dotted with tragedy and loss, Olmsted was determined to bring beauty to the ugliest corners of the country and preserve what beauty nature created itself. 

olmsted.jpg

 

Collaboration and Comprehension—Research Other Important Parks

Central Park is vital to the health and well being of New Yorkers. It gives them a place to escape the noise of the city and breathe fresh air. But New York is certainly not the only major city that benefits from a park. 

Pick a city and research its parks or park system. Who designed it and when? How have the citizens of the city benefited from the park? Compile your findings into a PowerPoint presentation or poster board and present them to the class. 

Range of Writing—Classroom Competition

Olmsted and his partners entered their design for Central Park in a contest and won. Now it's your turn. 

Design a park for your city, another major city, or a city of your own invention. Then, write a short essay about why each feature is beneficial for the citizens who will use it. 

Olmsted and partner Calvert Vaux's winning Central Park design. 

Olmsted and partner Calvert Vaux's winning Central Park design. 

Production and Distribution of Writing—Political Cartoon

Olmsted's desire to preserve his beautiful park took all the fun out of it for visitors. On page 63, you can see the political cartoon criticizing the restrictions and rules in the early days of Central Park. Why do you think this was an effective form of protest against these rules? 

Think about a rule in your school or community that needs to be changed. Draw a political cartoon showing that rule's effect on students or residents, then write a paragraph to explain your thinking in depth. 

The 1869 cartoon depicting citizens' disappointment with the rules of Central Park.

The 1869 cartoon depicting citizens' disappointment with the rules of Central Park.

Supplemental Videos

Modern New Yorkers talk about why Central Park is important today.

A full-length documentary about Olmsted and his work.