The Ford House

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House tells the story of the home life of a prominent American family.

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Students collaborate on Ford House garden project for a rainy day
Posted: October 24, 2019

On Oct. 24, 2019, University Liggett School students came together with Ford House’s landscape experts to plant a rain garden on an empty lot in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood of Detroit. The rain garden – created to reduce area flooding and naturally filter storm water runoff – is a collaborative educational project among community organizations and Ford House, engaging the students of Hope Community Outreach and Development (HCOD)’s Jefferson Chalmers Youth Connection (JCYC) in Detroit and University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods. The students from both groups worked together to design and create the garden. The effort aimed to build cross-community learning and social connections by immersing the students in problem solving through Design Thinking processes, all while enhancing the beauty and environmental health of the neighborhood.


Ford House staff supported and guided the rain garden project, carrying forward the historic estate’s commitment to sustainability practices. Ford House had partnered with University Liggett School and Detroit students in 2016 and 2017 to create another rain garden on a different Detroit site, reaching out to the community to celebrate receiving a National Historic Landmark in 2016. Other community partners on the current garden project include Community Covenant, which acquired the Philip Street lots as a part of a larger beautification project; Hope Community Outreach and Development, the parent organization for the JCYC; and Clinton Twp.-based Landscape Services, Inc., which donated equipment and labor to the effort.


“For the team at Ford House, it has been really rewarding to work with the Jefferson Chalmers Youth Connection, University Liggett School, and all of the outstanding organizations who came together to create this beautiful and functional space,” Karl Koto, Ford House Director of Landscape, said. “This is a fantastic project that combines classroom learning with a hands-on experience. It was great to get the students excited about using our native plants and ecosystems to create simple solutions to solve real problems we see in our community.” 


The project kicked off last April with a trip to the Philip Street lots, bringing together students from University Liggett School’s environmental science class, taught by Teacher Liz Dann, and HCOD’s JCYC. Monique Holliday, executive director of HCOD, led an icebreaker activity to foster communication between the students. Koto, a landscape architect, helped them conduct a basic site analysis, including making inventories of existing trees and plants, recording human impacts and other factors, and taking measurements with surveying tools. The students then took a deep dive into a Design Thinking activity with Nicholas Provenzano, University Liggett School makerspace director, resulting in three basic designs for the rain garden, as well as an additional healing garden space. 


The rain garden site is located at 706 Philip St. in Detroit.



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