Children’s Garden Consultants (CGC) is an innovative model for engaging youth to become experts in children’s garden design and educational programming through a meaningful learning process that gives voice and due recognition to their perspective.
The CGC model provides the framework for youth participants to become experts in children’s garden design and educational programming by critically examining and comparing a wide variety of children’s gardens, and exploring ways in which children’s gardens can be improved.
By providing an experience for youth to engage in a genuine consulting experience, this model is an effective tool for hearing the voices of young people while inspiring the ways in which adults think about children’s garden design and programming.
About this webpage:
This webpage will help guide you through the process of creating your own Children’s Garden Consultants program. Every written piece on this site is as an example of how we carried out the event in our setting. You will find ideas for how you can create your own CGC program, including:
• Presentations to provide background into what it means to be a consultant, as well as information about children’s garden educational programs and design.
• Checklists for planning, contacts you may want to make to set up the program, elements you’ll want to include, and sample letters.
• PowerPoint templates for youth to use.
How Children’s Garden Consultants (CGC) Got Started:
The Children’s Garden Consultants project emerged from an event at Cornell University, which was organized for youth ages 15 to 17. During this three-day event, teens were divided into a design team and an educational program team.
With those lenses, the youth visited gardens, listened to presentations, explored children’s gardens from around the nation using the internet, tried garden-based learning activities, and had discussions on topics such as adult involvement in activities, and various approaches to design. They also learned what being a “consultant” meant and how to prepare for their final presentation.
At the end of the event, each team worked for an hour and a half to put together PowerPoint presentations on their findings. The presentations contained their definitions of children’s gardens, what they believe was working well, what they thought didn’t work, and what recommendations for improvement they had to offer — again, from the perspective of both design and education. They presented to a group of adults who asked numerous questions of them.
What We Found…
Feedback from surveys, observations, and discussions with youth, adults in attendance, and program organizers indicated that:
• The event was highly valuable and worth repeating
• The youth learned a lot about aspects of children’s garden settings
• The program triggered interest in youth gardening
• Youth talked about repeating elements of the program when they returned home
• There’s a need to involve youth in roles beyond the usual garden-based learning activities
• Youth appreciated being viewed as experts and as partners
Why Repeat this Model…
“As we continue to look for ways to involve young people in garden planning and design, beginning with ‘children’s garden consultants’ can teach us about how youth define gardens, what they view as essential elements, what they believe doesn’t work well in a garden setting, what is missing, and what should be improved. The Children’s Garden Consultants model is an effective way to engage [youth] in a process through which they can inform adults of their perspectives regarding garden-based learning programming, and children’s garden design.”
Lekies, Kristi S., Marcia Eames-Sheavly, Kimberly J. Wong, and Anne Ceccarini. 2006. Children’s Garden Consultants: A New Model of Engaging Youth to Inform Garden Design and Programming. HortTechnology 16(1): 139-142.
Over the course of the CGC program, participants will learn a lot about design and educational programming in children’s gardens. As they work together to synthesize their ideas, participants will transition from the familiar student role to the less familiar role of consultant. The delivery component of CGC climaxes with youth consultant presentations to an adult audience and concludes with a Q&A session.
Once you have put the pieces in place for your CGC event, you are ready to assemble speakers, youth and adult assistants, and get started! The program schedule below includes links to appropriate materials, such as sample PowerPoint presentations that can help you to execute your CGC event.
Evaluation is one of the most important steps in implementing your CGC program.
Here are some tips to help you plan your evaluation process:
- Provide an opportunity for student participants, adult attendees, and adult assistants to provide feedback about their CGC experience.
- Gather as much information as possible while every one is still assembled.
- Ask prompting questions of the group, such as:
– Did it turn out how you expected?
– What did you learn?
– What went well?
– What could have been better?
– What was missing?
- Listen to what participants say and provide quality opportunities for feedback.
- Offer more than one method for gathering feedback (i.e. a forum for dialogue and/or group discussion, in addition to anonymous written responses to survey questions).
- Consider holding a follow up focus group one week after the program concludes.
- Get the answers you need to gauge the effectiveness of your CGC program, and how it can be improved next time.
Here are examples of some helpful evaluation tools (pdf):
The amount of advance preparation required will depend on the needs of your individual CGC program. However, the timeline provided below will outline what planning is needed when. The checklist will give you a more in-depth look at what to consider when planning, it includes links to sample planning materials.
• Program Modifications
• Sample Youth Recruitment Flyer #1
• Sample Youth Recruitment Flyer #2
• Sample letter to youth participants
•Sample letter for presentation attendees
• Sample letter to adult participants
• Sample invitation letter for final presentation
• Sample Presentation Flyer