Monday, August 15, 2011

Variations on a Theme: Two Gardens

Located in adjoining towns, within a few minutes driving distance of each other, Hovey Pond Park and the Rite Aid Community Garden share elements of the type of enchantment that Buffy Hamilton so eloquently describes in her presentations.

As I did in my Open Studios Tour posting, I'll try to analyze where the keys to an enchanting experience lie.

Hovey Pond Park is maintained by the Town of Queensbury and a squad of volunteer gardeners. Interpretive signs explain both the history and the environmental importance of this area. The land on which the Rite Aid Community Garden rests, formerly an empty lot, is made available to local residents by the adjacent Rite Aid store, as a public service.

The botanical gardens at Hovey Pond Park are complemented by an assortment of wildflowers which populate the pond and marsh areas (and sometimes "invade" the garden proper). Pathways, benches, a handicapped-accessible fishing platform, playground, and picnic areas invite exploration or quiet contemplation.

Individual plots at the Rite Aid Community Garden reflect the personalities of those who tend them. Whimsical bits of found art, hand-lettered signs, the choice of plants - tomatoes and cabbages cheerfully share their space with sunflowers and marigolds - are reminders that this garden is cultivated by people, not high-powered machinery. Even the tools in evidence reflect a very human, slightly nostalgic, influence.

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Each garden provides a green oasis; the Community Garden is particularly refreshing to the eyes, being situated close to the heart of the business district in Glens Falls, NY. Both sites are free to use (although you must sign up for a garden plot), environmentally friendly, and invite collaboration from the public. There are opportunities for exercise and multi-generational interaction: older adults and young children can often be seen fishing together at Hovey Pond; Brownie troops, church groups, and local residents of all ages garden side-by-side in the Rite Aid Community Garden.

There are certainly common elements found in these two gardens which might be applied to a school or library experience. These spaces invite purposeful play. Any rules are clearly written, publicly posted, and designed for the benefit of users. Information is acquired via text, in some instances, but also through human interaction with the environment and with with other people.

The school in which I taught had an open space, visible from my library windows. After being ignored for years, this little courtyard was prettied up with a trellis and some beautiful flowers. But a few years ago, something else was added: a vegetable garden, maintained by student volunteers. It would be wonderful if every school could have an actual, physical garden. But even lacking that, it's possible to add some garden-like elements, both literally and figuratively, to a classroom or library.

Gardens lend enchantment, and enchantment can lead to engagement, passion, and learning.

"Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there." -Thomas Fuller

From Flickr:
Hovey Pond Park Collection
Rite Aid Community Garden

Check out (!) this information from our local public library:

"One Community One Book is back, from its May 19th kickoff through the October 6th finale, featuring Kristin Kimball’s The Dirty Life. In conjunction with our Folklife Center’s “Foodways: Documenting the Local", enjoy the story of a city gal who meets and marries a farmer and moves from metropolitan NYC to upstate Essex. A little bit love story, a lot of dirt. Join the Reference Department for book discussions, alternative farming talks, and movies culminating with a meet the author night on October 6th in the Community Room.

The Children’s Department will present programming using the following: Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath.

Our teens will be reading and discussing Seedfolks by Paul Fleishman and visiting a local farmer’s market. They will also be enjoying Cooking Outside the Pizza Box by Jean Patterson and sharing in a pot luck dinner. Yum- this should prove to be a fun and delicious endeavor and a great way to congregate with our neighbors." -Crandall Public Library

What a perfect example of how to secure engagement by tapping into an area of interest and providing a diverse menu of related activities.

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