Joining KidsGardening!

Emily S – Executive Director

Rachel Carson said that, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Nowhere are the “wonders of the universe” more apparent to me than in the natural world.

Growing up in a rural farming community in New Hampshire, my summers involved building forts in the woods, growing giant pumpkins for the local fair, and eating raspberries until my fingers were stained.

This unrestricted access to the outdoors shaped who I would become. And it has influenced my ideas for the kinds of childhood experiences I will provide for my own young son. Most children in the United States, however, are not so fortunate. They lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces in which to learn, grow, and thrive.

This is why I am delighted to join the dedicated staff and board at to work with all of KidsGardening's partners locally and nationally to get more kids outdoors and learning through the garden.

There is an increasing amount of data that points to the profound impact that time in nature can have on children—both in terms of their ability to learn and their mental and physical health. Add to this the learning experience of nurturing a growing plant and connecting to one’s food, and through gardening programs we are delivering a wealth of benefits to our littlest citizens.

Reading through grant applications from some of the many educators we help fund, I am heartened by the passion and creativity of the women and men teaching our nation’s children. Proposals for garden programs range from medicine wheel gardens on Navajo reservations, to rooftop gardens for fresh local produce in urban food deserts, to therapy gardens for at-risk youth. We wish we could fund every one of them!

These educators, who work firsthand with children every day, experience the benefits that learning gardens have on children. According to developmental psychologist, Gabrielle Principe, author of Your Brain on Childhood, in order to “capitalize on the way the human brain was meant to grow, we have to redesign children’s environments…and naturalize childhood again.”

My vision is a nation where every child has the opportunity to experience the wonder, serenity, and joy of nature through gardening.

About the Author:

Emily Shipman joined as Executive Director in September 2016.

Emily brings a wealth of experience, expertise, and enthusiasm to the position. Her past work has bridged many integrated areas, including community development, food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture and food systems, and economic development.

Before coming to, Emily was program director at the Sustainable Food Lab, a global network of organizations facilitating market-based change for a sustainable food system. While there she worked with multinational food and beverage companies to bring more development benefits to smallholder farmers through sustainable trade. Emily holds a B.S. in Public Policy and Anthropology from Hobart and William Smith College and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Marlboro College Graduate School.

Whether working with companies to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the developing world, raising funds to ensure Vermont families do not go hungry, or organizing a local farmer’s market, Emily has always kept food and agriculture close to her heart.


Safe Garden Watering


Susan Littlefield - Horticulturist

There’s been a lot in the news lately about lead in drinking water and the danger it presents, especially to children. The lead contamination of Flint, Michigan’s drinking water horrified the country and has left many folks wondering about the safety of their own drinking water. While the problems in Flint were city-wide and due to the bad decision making on the part of city officials, even when the public water supply is safe, elevated lead levels may be found in the tap water coming out of some faucets, usually the result of corrosion of older fixtures or from the solder that connects interior or service pipes. So it’s a good idea to test the water at the outlets that provide drinking water in your school, home, or childcare center and follow your health department’s recommendations if lead levels are elevated.
Get more information on lead in drinking water from the CDC.

kggi_irrigationBut what about the water used to irrigate the garden? Do elevated lead levels in irrigation water also present a health threat? While it’s important to take steps to eliminate the source of lead contamination if the water at the outlet used for irrigating the garden shows elevated lead levels, research done at Michigan State University on soils in Flint gardens can make gardeners who find themselves in this situation rest a little easier. Looking at the soil in Flint’s edible flint demonstration garden, researchers calculated that the amount of lead added by the contaminated water over two seasons was minimal and that it “seems unlikely that lead contaminated irrigation water had any significant impact on Flint garden soils.” They also note that “Residual lead in urban soils themselves is more of a concern than additional lead added from the irrigation water, which is why soil testing - including testing for environmental contaminants such as lead - is recommended for all new food gardens, as well as researching the site’s previous uses.”

toolboxdsg_ediblegardenEdible gardens are a wonderful source of delicious, healthful and nutritious food. Some judicious testing of water and soil can help you continue to reap a worry-free harvest!

Find out more about how to grow a safe and successful edible garden.

The Pregnant Gardener: Setting the Stage for Healthy Sprouts

Amanda S
Amanda S – Director of Programs and Operations

Although the heat can be a little challenging, summer is a wonderful time to be pregnant, especially for a gardener! Growing a baby is much like growing a plant. Gardeners and soon-to-be mothers alike have the same goal: to nurture the seed as soon as it is planted so it has the best chance growing into a strong and healthy plant or child.

I am a strong believer and live by the basic saying of “you are what you eat.” My parents would repeat it over and over at the dinner table. At that time, I really didn’t want to become a beet or a Brussels sprout… but as I grew older, I started to notice how my diet affected how I felt. To this day, I carefully listen to my body and make sure that I pay attention to my nutritional intake. Now, as an expectant mother, I take extra care in understanding what I need to eat to support my health and my baby’s proper growth and development. Luckily for me, many of my nutritional needs come straight from my garden or my neighbor’s garden!

Here are some of my favorite healthy homemade garden snacks:

  • Blueberry/Strawberry Popsicles: Combine berries, fresh lime/lemon juice, and a splash of coconut water into blender, blend and adjust to your preference. Freeze for some popsicle fun!
  • Cucumber and Tomato Sandwiches: Enjoy this easy sandwich on a multigrain bread with mayonnaise, cucumbers and tomatoes. Cucumbers help keep you hydrated and provide Vitamins A and C!
  • Instant Pickles: Soak cucumbers in apple cider vinegar for 5-10 minutes; drain and enjoy!
  • Kale Chips: Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt; bake at 350 F until crisp.
  • Sweet Potatoes: Bake with cinnamon and maple syrup
  • Juice it up!: Juice together 2 beets, 1 lemon (rind and all), 2 apples, and 3 carrots – a veggie garden in a glass!

Learning “Math in the Garden”

Sarah P – Education Specialist
Sarah P – Education Specialist

One of the recommendations we try to emphasize when talking with school garden leaders is the importance of linking the garden program to existing teaching objectives. Sustaining a garden program becomes an incredible challenge when teachers view the time spent gardening as an addition to their workload rather than a tool to teach required curriculum. I know from my own personal experiences that reaching this level of understanding is not as easy as it may sound.

Fortunately, KidsGardening has some resources to help. Last month, we talked about our GrowLab, Growing Food and The Growing Classroom curriculum books. This month, I want to share more details about Math in the Garden.

KG-MITG_09062016blog-4Math is topic that can be a struggle for some students conceptually and yet is a subject that must be mastered to be successful in school. As Math in the Garden author Kathy Barrett shares, one of the best ways to help kids understand mathematics is to make the process less abstract and give “children practical experience applying mathematics to real life situations.”

Math in the Garden was written through a collaboration of The University of California Botanical Garden and the Lawrence Hall of Science and funded by a National Science Foundation grant. It is an engaging curriculum using a mathematical lens to take children on an education-filled exploration of the garden. Its 36 activities and extension ideas hone math skills and promote inquiry, language arts, and nutrition. All were extensively trial-tested by formal and informal educators and youth leaders nationwide.

I am a huge fan of this book. The lessons can be used with or without an outdoor garden space and most use supplies you can find in a grocery store. It includes an incredible collection of unique and inventive activities that you won’t find anywhere else. It is easy to use in a classroom setting or in a more informal setting like a community garden or after school program.

One of the educators who participated in the pilot testing, Barbara Kurland, passed along to us that the activities were “practical- kids used math to do something ‘real.’” In addition to enhancing their math understanding, she believes an important benefit of the curriculum is that the lessons provide the children with “skills they can apply to the rest of their lives such as measuring, organization and using tools.”

KG-MITG_09062016blog-3One of the experiences that stood out in Barbara’s mind came after delivering the lesson on symmetry using leaves and fruit (activities “Find that Line” and “Symmetry Inside Fruit”). At the end of the lesson, one of the children approached her to let her know that they learned about symmetry at school, but “we just used shapes cut out of cardboard – this is so much more fun and interesting. I never thought to look in the real world for symmetry.” For Barbara, this was a sign that by “seeing it come alive in the garden, the children got it.” For instance the “Area and Perimeter of Leaves” activity introduces students to alternative measuring tools such as using beans to measure and compare leaf sizes ultimately teaching them about the value of creative problem solving strategies.

KG-MITG_09062016blog-5So, if you are struggling with find a way to connect your garden to the core curriculum at your school to show that your garden program is a valuable use of precious instructional time, Math in the Garden may be a solution for you. Click here to download a sample activity, “Flowers: Graph and Graph Again,” from Math in the Garden. You can get your own copy of this innovative book through Gardeners Supply Company.