Projects like Journey North’s tulip test gardens are second nature for Renata Fossen Brown.
Brown is a science educator who looks at gardening as the perfect opportunity to experiment and learn. She’s gathered some of her favorite projects into a new book, Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden (Quarry Books, $24.99).
Brown said she’s concerned that kids aren’t spending time outside the way she did, so she created the book to help change that.
“We’re losing our connection to the outdoors,” she said. “… I think it’s dangerous for us not to know where our food is coming from” or feel connected to the wildlife in our backyards.
The activities Brown included in the book are designed to be done close to home, since she said parents are often reluctant to let their children roam.
Many of the projects have practical applications, such as building a herb spiral or fashioning a sprinkler from a pop bottle. Some are purely fun, such as crafting garden gnomes with grass for hair.
One is particularly close to her heart: planting a tree. It’s so important, she said, and so often done the wrong way.
All the activities share the attribute of making gardening fun.
Brown believes gardening should make you feel happy, not stressed about whether you’re doing it right. It should be about following your instincts, she says in the book, not about following rules.
The 17 young people who are featured in the book got into that spirit of fun, she said.
Those kids — the children of friends and neighbors — served as the models for the book’s photos, which were shot by her husband, Dave Brown.
“They were hilarious, and they had so much fun,” she said. “And we had so much fun.”
Brown has invited all those youngsters to join with her in autographing copies of the book at a book-signing event from noon to 2 p.m. April 26 at Cleveland Botanical Garden, where Brown is vice president of education. Copies of the book will be available for purchase, and children can participate in one of the gardening projects featured in it.
Plus the garden’s Big Spring celebration will still be going on, with lots of activities for kids.
The book signing is included in the cost of admission to the garden ($12, $8 for children 3 to 12, free for younger children and garden members).
Gardening Lab for Kids is available at the botanical garden’s Garden Store and select bookstores. It can also be ordered online from QuarryBooks.com or Amazon.com.
— Mary Beth Breckenridge