Volunteering as Learning
According to Richard Louv, “Childhood memories of contact with nature involve a deep sensory imprint of texture, smell, color, sound, and taste (Louv 2005).” Most of my childhood memories involve food, much of which was grown by my grandparents. I remember following my grandfather’s tractor, picking potatoes out of the ground, and I still find it difficult to eat a store-bought tomato after knowing the taste and freshness of one just picked off the vine. For the majority of children who do not know someone who gardens, the Children’s Garden programs at Lewis Ginter provide an opportunity for new experiences, tastes, and textures. It allows for collaboration and can be especially beneficial to children who find the typical classroom environment challenging. It is also a great place to intern.
My name is Allie Diemer and for my senior project I served as an intern in the Children’s Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. I am a senior at Collegiate School and am looking forward to attending the College of William and Mary in the fall.
Lewis Ginter was the ideal place for my senior project because it allowed me to combine my passions for children and the outdoors. Over the course of three weeks, I had the opportunity to observe multiple facets of Lewis Ginter, including the Children’s Garden as well as the Public Relations and Marketing department. I worked with many staff members and volunteers who made me feel comfortable and taught me a great deal about horticulture and education.
I spent the first part of the mornings tidying up and watering the straw bale gardens. The straw bale gardens contain herbs and a few types of vegetables, such as lettuce and tomatoes, that are sampled during some of the children’s programs. I spent the remainder of the morning shadowing or working with various staff members. On my first day at the Garden, I spent the morning with Heather and a few volunteers weeding Vetch. Although it was an extremely hot day and there was a large amount to be weeded, Heather and the volunteers made the task go by quickly with ample jokes and conversation.
In my second week at the garden, I spent a few days working with Jonah Holland and Beth Monroe in the Bloemendaal House. I assisted with a survey in which interviewed Garden visitors about where they were from, how they learned about the Garden, and what enticed them to visit. I enjoyed meeting the wide variety of guests as well as learning what they loved most about the Garden. One woman I talked to had been living in Richmond for almost 50 years and was showing off the garden to one of her out-of-town friends. I also met a Canadian couple who was on their way home after spending the winter in Mexico. They had read about the Garden in a magazine while staying in North Carolina.
What makes Lewis Ginter special is the passion that the guests, staff, and volunteers have for both education and helping the community. Educators lead classes that teach children to experience the garden for themselves and to get involved with what they are learning. In the Community Kitchen Garden, staff and volunteers have donated over 52,000 pounds of fresh produce to FeedMore since 2009. I have had an amazing experience here at Lewis Ginter and I look forward to seeing how the garden changes in the next few years!