Art in the Garden focuses on addressing impacts of early childhood adversity and trauma on health and learning through programming in the arts and ecology. At Art in the Garden, youth express themselves through drawing, sculpting, painting, music-making, theater and improvisation, physical movement, and engagement with nature. We engage a variety of modules that support youth in holding themselves and others in compassion and helping them to grow in connectedness to themselves, each other, and the earth. Art in the Garden supports youth knowing— in deep and lasting ways—the interconnectedness of all living beings, that we are all whole and all belong. Art in the Garden welcomes every child and family.

We engage a holistic, comprehensive, and supportive model that addresses needs, raises awareness of possibilities in our education systems, and promotes the implementation of meaningful actions.

Our Approach:

Trauma-Informed Learning supports students, teachers, & families on their path to healing; addresses root causes of trauma including racism, colonialism, capitalism & the climate crisis; creates environments where youth feel safe, connected, & can experience joy.  

Joy-Centered Learning is relational; emerges from the passions of youth & communities served; is process-oriented; honors each youth’s humanity; uncovers each youth’s ability to love oneself, others, and the earth; supports each youth’s ability to thrive and live their fullest expressions of themselves.  

Ecological Learning foregrounds Indigenous wisdom; explores connections between physical, emotional & spiritual well-being & local ecosystems; makes visible our interconnection with water, air, soil, and plants; supports youth in engaging local solutions-based approaches to climate justice.  

Social & Emotional Learning that is abolitionist, culturally responsive, anti-racist, anti-biased & dedicated to positively impacting the most vulnerable youth; engages a variety of modules that help youth hold themselves and others in compassion; creates space for the positive transformation of self, family, & community. 

Abolitionist Teaching trains teachers in liberatory pedagogy; affirms youths’ humanity; cultivates communities that embrace intersectionality, welcoming the whole of each person and valuing interconnection; empowers love not fear and creates systems powered by love and justice.

Processes for Digging Deeper

Throughout the summer, teachers incorporate the following processes to deepen projects and scaffold learning. Doing so supports the development of children’s creative capacities and give a sense of efficacy in the shared space.

  1. Taste/Observe/Try something new (efficacy,  risk taking)
  2. Pretend play (creative thinking)
  3. Journaling  (making predictions, asking more questions, reflecting
  4. Meditation (mindfulness, calm)
  5. Reflection (deepening understanding through prompted conversation)
  6. Physical play and games (body awareness, movement, strength)
  7. Documentation (reflection, making learning visible)

Learning Stations and Connecting Garden Exploration to the Elements

The environment in the garden also serves as our teacher. The learning stations reflect the four elements of nature–earth, wind, water, and fire–and scaffold youth’s artistic explorations and path to developing mindfulness. In each learning station, the elements are incorporated into open-ended materials (and loose parts)  that youth can access freely during designated times each day. They are guided by teachers to use each station with respect and attention to the needs of the group and as a space to explore the weekly themes. All of the stations emphasize free play and active exploration.