Audubon Naturalist Society is in the midst of transforming our 40 acres of protected land inside the Washington Beltway into a living classroom that will inspire people of all ages in the D.C. region to restore nature in their own communities. The goal of our Nature for All Campaign is to make Woodend Sanctuary an oasis of nature for all people and all wildlife.
Every year, since it launched in 2012, more and more children have visited and worked and played in the ANS Children’s Garden.
Why do they come? And why do they come back summer after summer?
They tell us they love what they see: new plants growing from bare soil; a new sprout appearing where none was before; the colors of the rainbow in the leaves and flowers they remember from summer to summer; how a squash plant looks versus a corn plant; the insects.
And they love what they hear.
They hear the wildlife that come to visit the garden; the buzzing of bees busy in flowers; the chirps of birds; and the chatter of newly-met friends as they explore together.
They love what they feel and touch.
They feel the warm sun on their heads. They touch the fuzz of a borage leaf, the smoothness of a tomato’s skin, the stickiness of a wriggling worm. The campers love to pick the ripe vegetables, such as slippery smooth pea pods, spiny cucumbers, and the cool soil-encrusted potatoes down deep. They also get a satisfaction from separating tiny sprouts and replanting them tenderly to give them more room to grow. They are caring for living things.
They love what they smell.
They smell the tang of wet soil, the sharp spice of herbs, the perfume of the flowers and the mouthwatering cooking aromas as they contentedly make their recipes.
And most of all they love what they taste.
The sour lemony taste from chewing on a sorrel leaf, the sweet sugary taste of anise hyssop leaves, the sharp, sweet taste of fennel leaves all provide the excitement of new flavors, new worlds.
The Children’s Garden provides a whole world of learning, and of mysteries. Why didn’t the tomatoes grow? What ate the corn? Why do so many amaranth seeds come from one flower?
From this warm summer experience, we are excited that they might go home and ask to start a family garden. And later when they are grown, they will remember how much pleasure and peacefulness they felt in the ANS Children’s Garden. They will remember that it was fun, and calming and interesting and not too hard, when maybe lots of other things in their lives seem hard. And one day, with all these memories dancing in the warmth of another spring or summer, they might decide to become lifelong gardeners themselves.