Step by Step: The Curious Garden (The High Line)


We are celebrating nature in unexpected places this week at Little New-Yorkers in honor of Earth Day on April 22. Many people assume that urban areas like New York City aren’t places to find nature, other than in large parks like Central Park. Cities are places typically thought to suppress the natural world with paved streets and tall shiny buildings.

But sometimes, nature shows up in places we don’t expect. One great example of this in New York is the High Line, a park atop an old elevated railway on the west side of Manhattan. No trains have ridden the tracks since 1980 and by the late 1990s, the city had plans to demolish the whole structure. However, some people who lived in the neighborhood had noticed what others had not—the tracks were a place where nature had been allowed to return to the neighborhood. Growing on the tracks were things most people had never seen before in New York City, like wildflowers and native grasses. The concerned neighbors were able to save the tracks and turn it into a beautiful park for all to enjoy. The park has been open to the public since 2009.

© Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

The story we are reading this week, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown, is inspired by the High Line.  It’s about one young gardener who transforms a dark, dreary city into a lush, green world. And it all started on a garden atop an old elevated railway. Sound familiar?

For the accompanying art project, we are making our own replicas of the High Line. Follow the steps below to make your own at home!


-1 8.5X11” sheet of cardstock

-1 11X4” strip of green paper

-2 11X2” strips of black paper

-2 11X.5” strips of brown paper

-4 2 X .5” strips of brown paper

-Assorted 1.5” squares of tissue paper

-Scotch tape


-Glue stick

1)      Once you’ve safely cut your papers into the correct sizes, they should look like the photo above.

2)      Next, glue the black and green strips onto the white cardstock. The black papers go on the sides, and the green paper goes between them. When you are done gluing, you should not see any white.

3)      Now it’s time to glue on the railroad tracks. Place the long brown strips side by side in the center of the green rectangle, and glue them to secure. Then, glue the four small brown strips across the two long strips, placed evenly apart.

4)      Once your track is complete, start gently crumpling the squares of tissue paper. These are your plants and flowers!

5)      Now, glue your plants so they blossom beside the railroad tracks. Spread your glue stick where you would like your plants to grow, and then stick them on.

6)      Very carefully fold the black sides under and crease where the black papers meet the green. Now, your High Line should be standing off the ground.

7)      Now, use your scissors to make six even cuts along each side of the High Line. Make sure you cut all the way up to the crease and the green paper.

8)      Turn the High Line upside down. You’ll notice you just made seven strips on each side. Tape down every other strip, so now you will have four strips on each side.

9)      Turn it over. Voila! You have made your very own High Line.  Great job, artist!

For more fun New York City stories and art projects, come to Little New-Yorkers at 3:30 on Tuesdays and Fridays in the DiMenna Children’s History Museum. See you there and Happy Earth Day!


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