More than 200 people, ranging from teachers and public garden employees to garden designers and school administrators, attended the American Horticultural Society’s 21st annual National Children & Youth Garden Symposium in Denver, Colorado, from July 11 to 13 this summer. Hosted by Denver Botanic Gardens, the event gave participants an up-close view of some of city's most inspiring gardens and programs that connect kids and plants.
Pre-symposium tours offered the opportunity to visit three school gardens in Denver Urban Gardens’ community garden network; or to venture farther afield to The Gardens on Spring Creek in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Cheyenne Botanic Gardens in Wyoming, both of which also have established successful children's gardens and programs.
In addition to networking opportunities, garden explorations, and dozens of workshops, attendees heard from three inspiring keynote speakers. David Sobel, a consultant, speaker, and author whose focus is child development and place-based education, spoke about design principles that can best facilitate genuine connections among children and the natural world. Marcia Eames-Sheavly, a senior lecturer as well as children and youth program leader for Cornell Garden-Based Learning in Ithaca, New York, invoked the audience to construct succinct and positive methods to advocate for garden programming. Louise Chawla, associate director of the Children, Youth and Environments Center for Community Engagement at the University of Colorado, shared her thoughts and research on the profound impact gardening has on both physical and mental health.
Another highlight of the event was the unveiling of the 2013 “Growing Good Kids - Excellence in Children’s Literature” awards. These annual awards, jointly administered by the Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society, recognize outstanding plant-, garden-, and nature-themed children’s books. This year’s three winners are First Peas to the Table written by Susan Grigsby and illustrated by Nicole Tadgell; Molly’s Organic Farm written by Carol L. Malnor & Trina L. Hunner, illustrated by Trina L. Hunner; and Our School Garden written by Rick Swann and illustrated by Christy Hale.
The 22nd annual National Children & Youth Garden Symposium will be held July 17-19, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about the 2014 Symposium.