Professional Goals , hopes and dreams

I have considered myself as being quite fortunate, even though life has presented many challenges.  In becoming a grandparent, I knew that I needed to protect them, nurture, care for, and teach them, but I was not sure how.  To my surprise, I didn’t need to know, it was them who taught me what I needed to do.  In the garden, many stories were told, secrets were shared, safety was created, and love blossomed.  In the garden, life looked so different, untouched by disparities, socioeconomic barriers, racial boundaries, or gaps in equity; the garden always gave generously to those who tended it, as they would tend to themselves.  This magical and mystical place where everyone was welcome became the focus of my journey.  There is power in gardening, and engaging it provides a glimmer of hope that grows alongside the seeds we sow.

It is my desire to share this experience with all children.  The garden is the place that can elevate families from hunger, provide nutritious alternative, and is sustainable when tended to with care.  Gardens do not need to be grand or even outdoors. Community gardens have been popping up everywhere with a surprising outpouring of volunteers, donations, and instructions. That is my hope for my community. With the influx of people relocating from natural disaster areas into our nearby communities; and the curve ball from the novel corona virus, many of our communities have endured a very serious shift in economic wellness.  The neighboring community of South Side Bethlehem is no exception. Donagan Elementary school is entrusted with the care and education of 420 students, having 95% of its population eligible for free lunch. Donovan is not just an elementary school it is a community center, complete with family development specialists, community school coordinators, health clinic, and washers and dryers to facilitate laundering for families that cannot afford the Laundromat. Donagan prepares backpacks of food for the children to take home on Fridays so that they have food for the weekend. Donagan elementary provides the exact curriculum as all other schools in the district, yet they serve a population where English is a second language. (Source: The Morning Call, November 1, 2019).  Passion drives the educators here at Donagan, quality education is what they provide, and love is what makes it all come together.

This school could greatly benefit from having a garden. The educational opportunity to teach young children and their families how to grow vegetables, fruits, herb and spices would lend to promote stewardship and leadership.  Engaging the students in food preservation and canning will provide the families an opportunity to make the most of the foods they have.  Perhaps a full range garden may not be feasible given the space needed to serve 420 students and their families, but if every classroom could have window boxes, then that would be a start, after all it is with a single seed that process takes hold.  A garden can give back some of the green space that has been slowly disappearing, a space to grow, socialize and contribute to. In a world filled with fear and uncertainty, it would be a wonderful thing to give children a project they can be proud of, and a skill that can be maintained by the whole family, the whole community.

Sharing Resources

Thinking back on my lifelong goals, and the early childhood studies, I was prompted to stop for a moment to see if my goals and purpose for my blog were in sync. In pondering the effectiveness of Gremi’s Garden Blog, I wondered if this was applicable to the current course of study.  The answer was a resounding yes. In my research of the world organizations advocating and providing resources for children, families and communities to improve the state of nutrition, have included back yard gardens and community gardens that help provide food as well as funding, through the sale of fresh farmed foods (Mason, 2016). 

            In the UNICEF report, education about nutrition and its effects on early childhood is also well established, partnering with local advocates and community members (Mason, 2016).  Malnutrition and food insecurities are not isolated incidents that occur only in underdeveloped or impoverished nations. It is a grim consequence of the disparities and barriers in access, affordability, and availability.  The Center for American Progress describes areas where malnutrition is high, as “food deserts”, having only corner markets in which nutritious foods are not readily available (Blackwell, 2016).  Blackwell reports, “Over the past century, the nation’s food system radically transformed from one sustained by family farms to an industrialized system dependent on toxic agricultural practices, farm consolidation, food processing operations, and distribution warehouses. Such a system often further elongates the distance between food sources and consumers”.

            Bringing the issue into living color, our capital, Washington D.C. had the highest rate of food insecurities of the reporting nation, having 1 in 3 children lacking consistent access to healthy food sources. Many initiatives have taken root as studies have driven the empirical data of nutrition and the balance it can provide in healthy, safe and equitable development.  Gardening Kids .Org, is one of these organizations that serve as an educational forum on gardening, stewardship, cooperation, that present an immediate response to the widening gaps of adequate nutrition for our children and the community at large. Gardening kids provide free information to those seeking to implement community gardens in low income areas, as well as gardens in schools. 

            My contribution to the early childhood field has not been swayed by the many barriers to healthy development.  Moreover, my determination for providing this simple assistance to my community is adequately increased.  It all starts with a single seed, a single hello, and a dedicated hand.  Although my plight may not be viewed initially as a social movement towards equity that is exactly what gardening has done for many communities.  Equity, access and availability all render barriers that can be transformed when food insecurities and malnutrition are removed from the equation.

Let It Grow

The long-lasting benefits of a school garden — supporting health and wellness, encouraging students to choose nutritious foods

Community gardens provide food, income for families

© UNICEF Niger/2005/Page
UNICEF-supported community gardens in Niger provide children with food; excess yields are sold to purchase medicines, school supplies and other staples.

By Kent Page

AGADEZ, Niger, 14 September 2005 – Niger is struggling to cope with a nutrition crisis. But in the village of Alikinkin, community gardens are an oasis of beauty and a source of food, helping children avoid the worst effects of the crisis.

In Alikinkin’s gardens, donkeys, goats and birds flourish among the grasses, bushes, palm and date trees. Neatly-planted rows of crops are irrigated with fresh water pumped from wells – a stark contrast to the situation in other parts of the country.

UNICEF’s office in Agadez, a town near Alikinkin, is supporting 50 community garden projects by helping construct water wells, providing gardening seeds, fertilizer, insecticide, fencing and tools.

The goal is to ensure that village children have access to nutritious foods. The gardens produce tomatoes, onions, carrots, peas, beans, cabbage, potatoes and wheat. (

Expanding Horizons

In an interview with Meridas Yora, founder of an institution for Islamic education, also Director of 3 boarding schools established to house orphan children of conflict and more than 120, 000 orphan children as a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, speaks about the holistic approach that has made a difference in the lives of the children.  He first underscore that after having many psychologists working with the children, they realized that the teachers where the ones that could provide for the children.  Special training was required for the educators in the boarding schools as they needed to become the “mothers and fathers” before becoming the educators. Mr. Yora attributes the well being of the children to the holistic concepts that allow children to have a hand in their recovery and those around them.  Older children looking after the young ones, has been instrumental in creating a family dynamic that is present in the educational component as well as in the interactions within the dormitories.  Yora reminds us that the children experience their trauma every day, particularly the children of conflicts that witnessed the slaughter of their families, and who continue to be re-traumatized by their expectations of being reunited with their families.  


World Forum Foundation Radio. Available at:

The Center on the Developing Child: Harvard University (2006) offers a position similar to the holistic goals of Yora’s Institutions.  Understanding the current status of disparities offers an opportunity to look towards other more innovative opportunities by reviewing what science has to say.  To that end, the Center on the Developing Child, engages in a mission “to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity” (p. 2).  In moving forward there are some considerations to working from a different direction.  Science provides a fresh look into opportunities that may not have been possible, and available now through scientific advances. Science allows for new thinking.  Innovation is the mode for change.  Rather than relying on restructuring existing practice, innovation provides an avenue for tackling the slow moving change of policy and service delivery. Innovation provides the opportunity for risk, creative thinking, sharing, and adaptation. A distribution of leadership is the third application that centers on the common goal of doing better for children. This approach allows for the opportunity for the multidisciplinary field to take action and be responsive to our communities.  In their global effort, the Center on the Developing child takes its stand asserting that “Our Center is well-positioned and prepared to convene and lead this collective effort” (p. 3).


Center for the Developing Child: Harvard University (2006). A Strategy to Achieve Breakthrough Outcomes for Children Facing Adversity. aids in my professional endeavor to use gardening as part of the developmental process for children and families.  Gardening provides hands on learning for children, with the added value of being able to teach children and families to grow many fruits and vegetables where ever they live. 

The Mission:

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, National Head Start Association and KidsGardening have joined together to combat some of the most pressing challenges facing today’s youngest generation, improving access to healthy food and increasing time spent outdoors connected to nature. The three-year partnership will work to bring the powerful, life-enhancing benefits of gardens to one million at-risk Head Start children and families across the country each year through the development of edible gardens and hands-on garden education. Gardens are an amazing resource in early childhood education classrooms. They offer hands-on learning experiences and provide the chance for inquiry-based exploration while also inspiring children’s natural curiosity and wonder. Garden activities can readily be integrated into the curriculum and designed to support the cognitive, physical, social and development of young children. Additionally, they provide ample opportunities to engage families and community members. Some noted benefits of garden-based education programs include:

  • Build an understanding of and respect for nature and the environment
  • Motivate kids to eat and love fruits and vegetables
  • Provide opportunities for hands-on learning, inquiry, observation and experimentation
  • Promote physical activity and quality outdoor experiences
  • Teach kids to nurture and care for other living things while developing patience
  • Offer opportunities for positive social interactions and team building experiences with students, families and community members


Though this organization works in the United States, organizations such as UNICEF also extend the message of gardening around the world not only to help in sustainability, but in the respite and stress relieving effects of gardening.

UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic/2016/Ourfali

The children initially started their experiment to block the view of a garbage heap. Now, they eagerly tend their garden, a respite from the day’s challenges.


Expanding Resources

Save the Children is an organization that was initiated in 1919, when the idea of children rights was not a common theme for the era.  History recalls “the health of young children was abysmal by modern standards, as about 1 in 4 children in 1900 died by age 5. Likewise, two million children between the ages of 10 and 15 worked in factories, on farms, and on urban streets” (Yarrow, 2009). Concurrently, the policy makers for educational were mediated the merits of education as a means for social and moral change, and a process by which to provide basic knowledge and skills.  Save the Children is not a governmental organization, it is a charity designed to help children in need in America and around the world.  Save the children work in the areas of most need, and those in desperate need of support. “Charity watchers, consumer advocates and donors agree: Save the Children ranks among the most trusted nonprofits and is a top charity for children” (

In the U.S. and around the world, Save the Children does whatever it takes — every day and in times of crisis — to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. When crisis strikes and children are most vulnerable, we are always among the first to respond and the last to leave. We ensure children’s unique needs are met and their voices are heard. We deliver lasting results for millions of children, including those hardest to reach. We do whatever it takes for children — transforming their lives and the future we share — because we believe every child deserves a future. 


As advocates for children, Save the Children informs and challenges policy makers to provide policies that promote wellness for the world’s most vulnerable children and families. 

Advocating for what Matters

Nutrition is at the forefront in the effort to provide children an opportunity for healthy growth and development.  Poverty underlines areas where children and families are in grave need of advocacy.  UNICEF (2013) published a report in which supportive strategies target the 1,000 days from conception to two years of age.  The interventions support, and practices help to educate and establish community involvement in the health, wellness, and development of child, family, and thus the community as a whole.  Through community engaged intervention, education goes a long way for everyone.  More importantly, UNICEF members devote precious efforts to move policy and legislations towards effective and proactive measure that can be applied for the long term wellness of their citizens.  It is important to understand that interventions is the guiding force for change, but policy, governmental support, and community involvement must move together to provide the best possible future.  The following is a highlight of key components and interventions of an infant and young child feeding strategy that promotes wellness from the very beginnings of life.


• Marketing of breastmilk substitutes

 • Maternity protection skilled support by the health system •

Curriculum development for IYCF (infant and young child feeding)

• IYCF counseling and other support services

• Capacity development for health providers

 • Institutionalization of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative

Community-based counseling and support

 • Established community-based integrated IYCF counseling services

 • Mother support groups


• Communication for behavior and social change

 Additional complementary feeding options

• Improving the quality of complementary foods through locally available ingredients

• Increasing agricultural production

 • Provision of nutrition supplements and foods

• Social protection schemes

 IYCF in difficult circumstances

• HIV and infant feeding

 • IYCF in emergencies

As with all things UNICEF, research and data help to establish the focus of need in varying communities. The programs, practices and advocacy efforts move forward towards social change by enlightening and educating policy makers of the benefits of change.

Source: UNICEF (2020). Improving child nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress.

Gremi’s Garden: Addressing issues and trends.

            Gremi’s Garden uses information from  The purpose of this design is to encourage children to play, explore, discover and collaborate in a common place where creativity and imagination come alive.  Some of their highest achievements for the 2019 year include:

“Our biggest grant application cycle to date, increasing our applicant pool by 54% and distributing over $160,000 in prizes, reaching close to 75,000 kids in 222 garden programs around the country. • A continuation of our partnership with the National Head Start Association and Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation to reach early childhood centers serving some of our most vulnerable, at-risk populations nationwide. • The introduction of Chrysalis, our collaborative online initiative in partnership with national youth garden leaders and sponsors to develop a centralized, interactive, online platform to meet the growing demand for resources, networking, and funding for youth gardens”. (

            Gardening is a useful tool for addressing concerns of nutrition, and health, encourages and promotes diversity in a way that children can identify with. Caring for a garden naturally encourages stewardship for the environment as well as for each other.  Moreover, when children engage in gardening helps to reduce diet-related illnesses, particularly in children (ie. heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes).  In addition, gardening creates a green space for growing children, directly confronting the decreased play space that has been linked to anxiety and poor mental health.

            Gardening has much to offer young children.  In the hands on participation, children are more likely to absorb the concepts of comprehension as they work the beds using math skills to distance seeds appropriately, and call on working memory to recall lessons pertaining to the project at hand.  They can also become more aware of responsibility and collaboration as they work to care for their creations. Through gardening children become more aware of the animals that surround a garden as well as their respective benefits to the different areas of the garden.

            In the garden there is no judgment, no critics, and no bias. It’s all about our ability to grow with nature, to socialize, to take on leadership roles in an arena that if defined by diversity. The garden provides benefits in support of family relationships, and family engagement in this very unique learning environment.  I encourage you to take a look, what you find may surprise you, or at least provide a path of continuity and inclusion. I have yet to find a topic that cannot be taught through gardening, especially, if the children we teach create a space that is of comfort for them.

Teach children the importance of our environment. We are all connected.

Introducing Lessons to Grow By!

Lessons to Grow By is a FREE four-month program of weekly garden-themed lessons and activities for caregivers teaching at home, or for educators instructing via distance learning. These fun, engaging adventures will be grouped around a monthly theme, featuring three hands-on activities for kids each week with supplemental suggested reading, videos, and more. Lessons to Grow By is aimed at learners in grades 3-5, but the activities can easily be adapted for younger or older audiences.

Lessons to Grow By launches August 31 and is only available by subscriptionSubscribe to Lessons to Grow ByWant a sneak peek of what’s to come? Our educators have carefully chosen the following monthly themes:

September:Pollinators Explore the intricate relationship between pollinators and flowering plants and the important role they play in our world.

October:Plant Parts Take an in depth look at plant parts as we explore these amazing green organisms.

November:Ecosystems Learn about the complex web of life above and below ground and how we all come together to live in our ecosystem.

December:Sensory Exploration End the year on a fun note by using our senses to explore plants in the garden and in the kitchen. Subscribe today!Have a friend or colleague who might be interested? Share here!Copyright © 2020, All rights reserved.
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