With Gratitude

Emily Shipman – Executive Director

I drink a lot of tea, especially in the colder months. This time a year ago I was warming myself with a cup in my converted schoolhouse in Vermont and happened upon a quote that has stuck with me since. The tag on the tea bag read, “Gratitude is an open door to abundance.”

The words gratitude and abundance have taken on a special meaning to me. For years I worked in developing countries with poor smallholder farmers. These farmers often struggled to feed their families on the income generated from their crops. Running water was uncommon and indoor plumbing unheard of.

I also spent a number of years working for our state’s food bank. Even here in Vermont, one in four struggles with hunger.

Returning home to a warm house, a loving family, and food on the table after weeks in the field in rural East Africa, it’s easy to feel gratitude for the comforts I am afforded.

But less obvious and equally important is the gratitude I feel for the work itself. Over the last 14 years, I have had the opportunity to spend countless hours connecting people in need with generous folks who support them. To me, this is abundance.

Three months ago, I joined KidsGardening. In doing so I became a part of a web of passionate change-makers who understand the urgent issues facing our children and the power of garden-based learning to reverse these trends. They know that nearly 18% of all children in the United States are obese. And they understand the long-term implications of the fact that in the U.S. tweens spend, on average, only 12 minutes a day in vigorous physical activity outdoors.

My colleagues and I here at KG are committed to ensuring that we get more kids learning through the garden because studies find that—among the many benefits of garden-based learning—time spent outdoors reduces health problems in children. We also know through data and our own experience that children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables or express a preference for these foods.

The holidays are upon us and it’s the time of year when we celebrate human connections and express gratitude for the ones we love. As we bring 2016 to a close, I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside the KidsGardening community to grow happier, healthier, more connected kids.

Thank you for being a part of this community.

With gratitude,





KidsGardening goes to National Science Teachers Association Conference

Sarah Pounders – Education Specialist
Sarah Pounders – Education Specialist

The first week of December, I had the chance to attend the Regional National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference in Columbus, Ohio with our partner Evergreen Packaging to promote the 2017 Carton 2 Garden Contest. For 3 days, we visited with enthusiastic science educators from all over the country chatting about their current gardening pursuits and environmental programs and also their future plans to start new garden programs and to participate in the Carton 2 Garden Contest. So. Much. Fun! I am quite positive I learned as much information about school gardens as I shared.

Our booth visitors frequently commented that saving milk cartons either for recycling or repurposing was already an activity they were engaged in and that they were excited to learn about a chance to use their efforts to earn money for school garden programs. Participating in Carton 2 Garden is really quite simple:

  1. Save empty milk and juice cartons either from your school cafeteria or students can also bring them in from home.
  2. Creatively re-purpose the cartons for gardening activities or to build garden structures while engaging students in hands-on learning that fosters environmental stewardship and healthy living.
  3. Capture the results of your efforts (in writing and photos for grade level prizes and in video for the specialty awards and grand prize) and submit your entry form by April 12, 2017.

Prizes for winners range from $1,000 up to $5,000 – more than enough funds to build a strong foundation for a new school garden or to expand an existing one.

In the past two years, I have been absolutely blown away by the creative and innovative ideas submitted. Some example projects from last year’s winners included a carton-based shade house, a micro-green growing hydroponic experiment, and a rainwater capturing system. A common theme with many of the winning programs was that the project concept and process were student-led. You can find full details about this year’s contest along with additional information about past years’ winners for inspiration at: http://carton2garden.com/.

In addition to these web resources, as a new feature this year we will offer a webinar on January 11 at 3 pm EST to provide you with even more background about the contest. The webinar will include:

  • An overview of the contest rules and requirements.
  • Examples of exceptional Carton 2 Garden projects from past winners.
  • A summary of best practices to help you create a successful educational program around your Carton 2 Garden Project.
  • An introduction to indoor gardening basics to help you get growing.
  • Tips for writing and compiling your application to create an eye-catching entry.

You can attend the presentation live or it will also be recorded and posted so that you can view at your convenience. Click here to register for the webinar and even if you cannot attend, by registering you will receive notification when the webinar is posted for viewing.

Now is the perfect time to begin brainstorming with your students and fellow teachers about your entry. Involving the whole school community is the best way to build excitement and make sure the projects are integrated into your curriculum. To help you get started, free entry kits can be downloaded or you can also request for one to be mailed to you.

We hope that you will consider participating in the 2017 Carton 2 Garden Contest. I can’t wait to see this year’s entries!



Caring for Classroom Plants during Winter Breaks

Susan Littlefield - Horticulturist

No doubt excitement is building in your classroom as the holiday break approaches. Both students and teachers are looking forward to the chance to relax and rejuvenate away from school for a week or two. But what about your classroom plants? They’ll need to weather the time on their own without the regular tending they receive when school is in session. What can you do to make sure your vacation doesn’t turn into their funeral?

Long breaks can be a challenge for indoor plants, but with a little planning, you can keep your classroom garden growing while you’re away. Start by determining the conditions your plants will face. What will the temperature be? Will the school set the thermostat lower while students and staff are away? How much light will be available? Are your plants growing on a windowsill or under grow lights? What kinds of plants are you growing?

Lack of water is generally the biggest risk to plants that are untended for a time. So be sure to water your plants well right before a break begins. As always, make sure they are not left standing in water; promptly empty any water that drains out into saucers under the pots. If you usually water your plants once a week, this watering should suffice for a couple of weeks, even though plants may be a little stressed on your return. Established plants growing in larger pots will dry out more slowly than those in small pots. Small seedlings will have the hardest time going for a week or more without watering.

Giving plants cooler temperatures and lower light conditions generally works in your favor because these conditions slow plant growth, which in turn decreases plants’ water needs. Many common indoor plants, such as houseplants grown primarily for their foliage, are tolerant of periods of lower light conditions. Many will also do fine when conditions a little cooler than normal, as long as the temperature doesn’t drop too drastically. In general, it’s best if temperatures get no lower than about 60 degrees F for most houseplants.

If your plants are growing on a sunny windowsill, it’s a good idea to move them away from the glass somewhat. You don’t need to place them in a dark corner; just somewhere they’ll receive less intense sunlight. Clustering plants together will help to keep humidity higher around them. Consider making a tent of clear plastic either around individual plants or groups of plants to increase the humidity level and slow water loss due to evaporation, but be sure plants are not in direct sunlight or you might cook them! And don’t rest the plastic directly on the plants; erect some supports over which to drape the plastic.

If you are growing plants such as seedlings or vegetable plants that require bright light to remain healthy, keeping them under grow lights during the break will result in the healthiest plants on your return. However, you don’t want the lights to remain on 24/7. Hooking up lights to an inexpensive timer set to turn lights on for 12-16 hours, followed by 8- 12 hours off makes this cycling easy in your absence.

Finally, here’s a novel way to help your plants weather a break in good condition – offer them up for short-term “adoption.” Encourage students to take advantage of a great learning experience by taking plant “guests” home for the break. Just be sure plants are well-wrapped for their trip if the weather is cold (below 45-50 degrees F).

Gardener Gift Guide

Sarah Pounders – Education Specialist
Sarah Pounders – Education Specialist

Looking for some gift ideas for the young (or young at heart) gardeners in your lives, here a few ideas:

Watering Cans and Wheel Barrows

Kids Gardening Gift Guide: Watering Can

Appropriately sized tools are always important when working with youth in the garden, but if you really want them engaged and active, make sure they have a good watering can and wheelbarrow (or appropriately sized bucket if a wheelbarrow is too big to store for you). Watering is a favorite activity, but adult-sized watering cans are too heavy for most young children to manage and often result in too much watering getting dumped on the plant too. A small can is easier to handle. To ensure gentle watering, make sure to choose one with small holes on the spout to control water flow. Making collections (leaves, weeds, rocks, pinecones, etc.) is another great activity for kids in the garden and a wheelbarrow or bucket helps with transport and serves as a place to keep their treasures safe.

Raised Beds

Although certainly not a requirement, raised beds are a great way to define space both in home and in school gardens. By having more control over the soil, you frequently have higher rates of success because of better drainage and fertility along with fewer weed and pest problems. Raised beds come in all shapes in sizes from cedar planks to recycled plastic. Although they require a little more investment on the front end, they more than make up for it by making gardening easier during the growing season.

Worm Bins

ToolboxGB_wormcompostIndoor worm bins allow you to compost kitchen scraps year round and kids love them. You can buy worm bin kits or make your own by drilling holes in medium-sized plastic containers. We just got our worm back up and running and it is like having a new pet (although so much less work than a puppy). For more information, check out our article on worm composting.

Children’s Garden Books

There are soma-place-to-grow-1e amazing children’s books out there that focus on gardening topics. For toddlers, one of my favorite books is Flower Garden by Eve Bunting. My preschool-aged son could read the book What’s in the Garden? by Marianne Berkes on a regular loop. My new favorite book for elementary-aged children is A Place to Grow by Stephanie Bloom.

For additional book recommendations, check out The Growing Good Kids – Excellence in Children’s Literature Book Awards Program from the Junior Master Gardener Program and American Horticultural Society and also their best classic garden books list.

Terrarium Kit

terrariumSince indoor gardening is in season right now, another creative gift idea is a make your own terrarium kit. You will need to provide a container, pea gravel, soil and plants. Since it is a gift, you might also want to add a little whimsy and throw in a miniature fairy or frog too. Click here for a suggested plant list and full planting instructions that can be printed and packaged with all the necessary supplies.

Bird Feeders

gb_winterbirdschoolyardConsider wrapping up a bird feeder to give to your young gardener which will double as a gift for your local feathered friends. Feeding and watching the birds during the winter is another great seasonal activity to enjoy in your garden. Bird feeders come in a range of sizes and shapes, and you can even make your own. 

KidsGardening Publications

growlab-2Finally, if you are looking for a special gift for a garden educator in your life, don’t forget to check out our KidsGardening Books and Curricula. Your purchase not only provides a valuable resource for your local youth garden program, it also helps support our mission too!