1. People like knowing good things are happening in their community. Every year our school hosts an open house for Global Youth Service Day. Last year our “Garden Ambassadors” led garden tours for community members as part of the program. We had neighbors, business owners, school board members, fellow gardeners—even the librarians walked up to the campus in shifts. More than one adult approached me with tears in their eyes, saying “This is so wonderful.” Seeing kids poised, knowledgeable, and proud of a project they’re involved in…..well, it just feels good, and makes you happy to know that it’s going on in the place where you live .
Garden Ambassadors orients visitors at our bulletin board
2. If people are going to support their local schools, they need to be connected to them. Last Spring the women’s group from my church asked for a tour in conjunction with their monthly meeting. Some of them had not stepped foot on campus in twenty years (when their kids were students); some of them had never stepped foot on campus. And once they did….they noticed our beautiful murals….and our commanding view of Mt. Volcan from our playground…..and the fact that we have a full-time PE teacher! I had to keep coaxing them back to the garden, as they were caught up in looking around with excitement. As we were sitting at the table starting our tour, one of the teacher aides walked up with a quilt. She had sewn a beautiful quilt for a raffle to support the tsunami victims in Japan. Seeing the women assembled, she asked if she could show it and explain the fundraiser. Naturally I invited her over, and the dollar bills started flying across the table–“I’ll take two tickets,” “Here’s a donation!” “I’ll take a ticket, keep the change.” Sometimes people simply need to know what’s going on to be a part of it.
I love these ladies!
3. You never know what connections and possibilities these visits may produce. After a visit, a neighbor donated a small solar panel unit. A retired school teacher brought by three asclepsis plants for our habitat garden (each one had monarch eggs, a chrysalis and even caterpillars) and then gave a wonderful presentation to the first grade students. And then…….
Last summer a parent volunteer invited her neighbor to tour the garden. An artist, the neighbor also runs a local business. After visiting the garden, she decided to create a mosaic sculpture for us. When I called to thank her and ask why she made such a generous and spontaneous donation, she cited everything from the “beautiful yellow snapdragons” to the fact that some of her clients work at the school, and she wanted to do this for them. I was on vacation when the piece was delivered, and I was amazed to see it sitting in the garden when I returned—a unexpected grace note. We held a ceremony and unveling, with the Garden Ambassadors assisting, and it sits in our butterfly garden today.
The artist Coco Leeras with "Gardens Grow Magic"