Interview a Gardener: Smithsonian Gardens Green Ambassador Challenge
Below are resources referenced in the steps and other helpful websites and ideas to help you along your journey as you interview a gardener in your community.
Download the Parent/Guardian Consent Form.
Download the Interviewee Consent Form.
Download the Sample Interview Planning Sheet.
Sampling of Community of Gardens stories to inspire you:
- Urban Garden with Honeybees (example of a transcribed audio interview in a Q & A format)
- An Italian-American Garden Story (example of a family history of gardening)
- My Neighbor’s Garden (example of a story contributed by a high school student)
- Three Part Harmony Farm (example of a video interview)
- Shepard Street (example of an interview turned into a narrative story)
Resources for Oral History:
- Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide
- Oral History in Education (Oral History Association)
- Principle and Best Practices for Oral History (Oral History Association)
- Baylor Institute for Oral History
- Folklife and Fieldwork: Resources (Library of Congress)
- Sample Interview Release Form (Library of Congress)
- Audio and Video: Practice makes perfect when it comes to recording audio and video. Find a quiet place to conduct the interview; use an external microphone, if possible; and become familiar with the recording and editing software or apps you are using. You can use a good audio or video software or app to record the interview, adjust sound quality, make audio clips, and edit the interview. Save the original file in a widely used file format, such as .WMV or .AIF. Save a copy of the file as an .MP3 for editing and easy sharing.
- Images: Photos can bring your interviewee and their garden to life for your audience. Show what makes this garden special—tell its story. Consider starting at the garden’s entrance and take pictures as you move through it. Photograph the interviewee in their garden. If you ask the gardener to supply images of their own garden, share these tips to help them take the best photographs possible.
- Images should be shot in the camera or device’s highest setting. Keep the original high-quality files. You can save copies of the photos as smaller .JPEG files to share.
- Ask the interviewee to share old photographs or documents that help tell their garden’s story. If you scan or photograph them make sure to handle them carefully and return them promptly. Your school library or media center might have a scanner you can use.
- Remember to create a caption list that describes what each photo shows and lists the garden’s location, date, photographer, and any other relevant information.
Example of an okay caption: Paths and arbor, Sue’s garden, Washington, D.C., 2009.
Example of a better caption: The perennial garden and path. Arbor on the side of the house is for old-fashioned roses. Sue’s garden in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, Washington, D.C., June 17, 2009.
Gardener Oral History Sample Interview Questions
- Did you have a garden growing up? What was it like?
- What are your first memories of gardening?
- What was your neighborhood or community like? Did your neighbors have gardens?
- Did your parents or older family members garden when they were children?
Learning to Garden
- Who taught you how to garden? Share a story about them.
- Where was your first garden? What did you grow?
- Did you make any mistakes while learning?
- What was your first gardening “success”?
- What advice would you give to a new gardener?
- When did you plant your current garden?
- How has the garden changed since you first started it?
- Where do you spend most of your time in your garden?
- What do you enjoy most about your garden?
- What are your future plans for your garden?
Planting and Growing
- Where do you buy or find your seeds and plants?
- How do you decide what you are going to grow?
- Do you have a favorite plant or vegetable in your garden? Why?
- What is the hardest plant you’ve ever tried to grow?
- Do you have favorite tricks or tips you have picked up along the way?
Heritage and Immigration
- Did you grow up in a different country? What gardening traditions have you brought with you?
- Have you learned anything new about gardening in the United States?
- Have you shared garden wisdom or tips from your home country with friends and neighbors here?
- Do you have a family or traditional recipe you like to prepare with ingredients from your garden?
- How has your heritage influenced your garden?
- What is different about gardening in the United States?