Tuesday, May 19, 2015


It is hard to believe that Memorial Day is finally upon us, the soil is warming up and trees have leafed out. Gardens are ready to be planted...time to get your hands dirty!
It is easier at this time of year to really start looking at potential locations for the school garden now that the ground is bare and the sun is higher in the sky. Whether your location is more urban where there is limited space or one that has acres of open space, you will need to find the right site for your garden. If the only space available is on asphalt, you can use containers or raised beds right on top. If space allows, you can plant directly in the ground or in raised beds. When figuring out where the garden should be located considers these key factors:

  • Look for a level area that receives at least 6 hours of full sun a day. Stay away from trees and shrubs that could shade the garden
  • A water source should be nearby
  • Location should be visible, accessible for delivery of materials and close to the building
  • If planting in the ground have the soil tested for overall quality and composition as well as contaminates such as lead
  • Check that there are no conflicts with utilities, wells, septic systems or in ground tanks
  • Space for composting
  • Potential need for fencing to define and protect space
  • Area for shed or nearby storage for tools and supplies
Take a walk around the grounds with an aerial view of your site. Keep these key factors in mind and make notes of potential locations. There will be a location that rises to the top of the list. No matter what kind of situation you have: urban, rural, large or small there is a way you can make a garden that will expose children to the wonder and beauty of growing things and connect them to the natural world. The longest journey begins with the first step so…take that step!


Gardens to Grow In

Edible Schoolyard Project

National Gardening Association/Kids Gardening

Monday, May 4, 2015


I attended the In Bloom in Boston conference in March.This conference,co-sponsored by Antioch University and
Mass Audubon, is held in four different locations: the first was in Boston;New Haven Connecticut on April 25
Keene, NH on May 14;
and Shelburne, VT on June 10. 
Each conference has unique and nationally recognized keynote speakers and workshops lead by local practitioners.
The Boston conference was held at the 
Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary which is  on the grounds of the former Boston State Hospital. The sessions were held in the George Robert White Environmental Conservation Center, the first “green” municipal building in Boston, a perfect venue with lots of natural light and views of the landscape. 

I learned much more about the nature preschool and forest kindergarten concepts in early childhood education now sprouting up in our communities but have been in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and Europe since the 1960’s. Of particular interest to me, because of the work I do, was the keynote speaker Ken Finch, president and founder of Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood.  His session, "Nature Play: Risky Business”, focused on facts and misconceptions of risk in nature based play. Safety is always an issue with parents and administrators when incorporating nature based play and learning opportunities for children.  Did you know that:

"nearly 90,000 U.S. children are injured annually on stairways. In fact, a U.S. child under
five is treated in an emergency room for stair related injuries every six minutes!" 

So,are stairs prohibited in homes because of these injuries?
It all comes down to perspective. If you are interested in more information about this topic download his paper “Risk and Reward in Nature Play". 

I left this conference with an even deeper appreciation and understanding of what is possible in offering nature based early childhood education opportunities in our communities. This knowledge will help make the environments I design for children more responsive to their needs. The educational and health benefits of children being outside in nature cannot be denied.
Nature is the true natural playground!

There is still time to attend this conference. I hope that you will take some time to look at what is still being offered this year. If you can't fit it in this year put it on your radar for 2016. 

Back to "Planning Your School Garden" 

later this month...