Reaping What They Sow: Lee and Kathy Lovett

A Literacy Garden? Just what does that mean?
To educators and long-time gardeners Kathy and Lee Lovett, it’s a chance to encourage youngsters to get outside among growing things and have a memorable learning experience that’s not duplicated in the classroom.
“In our travels, we have visited so many literacy and children’s gardens,” says Kathy, an avid Hall County Master Gardener and retired Hall County educator. “This is a perfect opportunity to teach them early literacy skills and to cultivate a love of gardening.”
The Literacy Garden will be located within Gardens on Green, a teaching and learning garden adjacent to the Hall County Board of Education building at 711 Green St. in Gainesville. Begun in 2008 through the Lovett’s’ dedication and work by other Hall County Master Gardeners in cooperation with the Hall County School System, the site has expanded to include more than a half-dozen specialty gardens. Students from throughout Hall County have helped install the Pollinator Garden, Native Garden and a Children’s Vegetable Garden.

Hall County Master Gardener Patti Lewis, right, prepares to lead a group of Myers Elementary second-graders through the butterfly garden.
Hall County Master Gardener Patti Lewis, right, prepares to lead a group of Myers Elementary second-graders through the butterfly garden.

“We’re very much aware of the crucial need to develop pre-reading skills and of the positive effects that nature experiences can make in a child’s life,” says Lee, also a Hall County Master Gardener and deputy superintendent of the Hall County School System. Together, he and Kathy co-chair and oversee Gardens on Green, from welcoming classes of students on field trips to arranging for classes and workshops for the community.
The Lovetts say they hope that the Literacy Garden will be open by October or November. Themes and activities within the new garden are based on nursery rhymes and children’s stories, including Jack and the Beanstalk, Peter Rabbit and Dr. Seuss. The entrance archway will read: “Read. Discover. Grow.”
The children will be able to climb Jack and Jill’s grassy hill, hear tales by storytellers as they gather around a whimsical chair, and take part in interactive craft and gardening activities. The USDA “My Plate” area features a 4-foot-diameter plate with the words “We are what we eat” to teach them about proper nutrition and healthy eating. Vegetables and fruits will be planted nearby, alongside a giant fork and spoon.

Myers Elementary students learn about the life cycle of butterflies during their visit to Gardens on Green.
Myers Elementary students learn about the life cycle of butterflies during their visit to Gardens on Green.

There will be a library of popular preschool books to be read while at the garden, and a large chalkboard to encourage drawing and writing. Children can climb on Jack’s beanstalk and see real bean plants growing there in season. A sensory garden, a potting bench and a fairy house add to the interactive nature of the site. Shrubbery is being planted to resemble a curving bookworm.
The 20-member steering committee has been actively applying for grants and
seeking community donations from the public and from businesses. As a way for the community to contribute a lasting legacy to the Literacy Garden, people can purchase commemorative and memorial bricks that will pave the entry way for $100 each.
A number of groups will be planting and building the Literacy Garden, including Hall County retired teachers, Hall County Master Gardener volunteers and are high school construction students. Kathy says that there will be between 35 and 50 volunteers who will work on the project over the next several months.
When the Literacy Garden opens later this year, plans include scheduling classes and field trips for children ages birth through 5, including public and private day care centers and other groups.
“Our vision for the garden is that it will educate children and promote good health and well-being,” Kathy says. “It will engage children in a wide range of experiences that will enrich their reading readiness, teach healthy eating habits, and create of love for gardening and the natural world.”

Story by Pamela A. Keene

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