Turning Over a New Leaf

As the calendar flipped to 2021, it prompted many to rethink the annual habit of making resolutions. On the heels of an unprecedented year, the superficial promises to improve or better ourselves seem much less appropriate this year. Yet, transitioning to a new year does motivate us to rethink our practices.

As I approach the two-year mark of launching a nonprofit (The School Garden Doctor was awarded 501c3 status on February 11, 2019), I’ve been cautious about how to adapt nascent programs to a virtual format. Sensory experience–a hallmark of science, nutrition, and environmental education–is much harder to accomplish via screen. However, I believe connection and content can overcome the obstacles of remote delivery, so I’m turning over a new leaf.

During the fall semester, I taught an Elementary Science Methods course as part of UC Berkeley’s teacher education program (BE3) (yes, entirely remotely). As part of the course, I invited my adult students to showcase the science in their everyday lives. One week two students eagerly showcased their passion for houseplants. They called themselves “two crazy plant ladies” (perhaps after the book by Isabel Serna or the children’s book of the same title by Michael Powell). They made a slideshow including photos of their collections and touted the many benefits of indoor plants.

I had never given much notice to houseplants before, in part, because I prefer to garden outside. The Mediterranean climate of the Napa Valley typically supports year-round outdoor gardening, but the extended fire season and restrictions of COVID-19 forced me indoors for extended periods of time. Thanks to those “crazy plant ladies,” I’m learning to adapt my gardening practice to houseplants.

Whether or not you really like houseplants, you may have felt a bit crazy in 2020. In fact, our collective mental health has suffered a lot this year. Since March, I’ve been trying to figure out how to connect with the Dirt Girls, a STEM-focused after school garden club. Suddenly, the answer became clear: I could engage them with indoor gardens made from collections of air plants, succulents, ferns, and more!

Dirt Girls Grow Indoors will feature virtual STEM exploration paired with hands-on horticultural learning to introduce girls to the power of houseplants.

Dirt Girls Grow Indoors has already raised interest–and dollars. As a GlobalGiving partner, I solicited year-end donations from supporters using the pitch Grow Resilient Dirt Girls. In just a few short months, the program is gaining momentum. I’ve enlisted the support of the UC Master Gardeners of Napa County houseplant experts and called on my former curriculum design colleagues to develop a scope and sequence.

Dirt Girls Grow Indoors lessons will not only feature virtual exploration of houseplant types and care, it will also foster curiosity and social emotional learning (SEL). If you have even the slightest interest in houseplants, and growing resilience, I invite you to learn more by attending the Houseplants for Health event on January 18th. Find out more and register here.

GlobalGiving is an internationally recognized crowdfunding platform.
The School Garden Doctor empowers teachers, schools, and communities to grow school gardens that enhance science education, nurture wellness, and foster environmental literacy.

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