• Jennifer Jewell

BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIAL: THE LITTLE GARDENER, with JULIE CERNY



In this very unusual back to school season here in the US, we’re joined this week by Julie Cerny a gardener, an outdoor enthusiast and educator.


Her new book, The Little Gardener: Helping Children Connect with the Natural World (out now from Princeton Architectural Press) provides some unusual and inspirational guidance for parents, grandparents, caregivers, and educators who want to help children explore the natural world through gardening.


Part how–to, part teaching tool, and part inspiration, The Little Gardener shows gardeners of all ages how to envision and build their garden together by making the process an adventure to be treasured, with much to learn along the way.


The Little Gardener is dedicated by Julie "for Mom and Dad and the Trees."


ILLUSTRATIONS throughout the book and as seen here are all YSEMAY DERCON



“And it made perfect sense. The most direct and intimate way to connect with nature is, clearly, to eat it. A small part of it becomes a small part of you—and it fills you up a little more every time. Eventually you begin to realize that you have always been 100 percent nature, that you are made of the same components of all that you see in the natural world—your body made of water and carbon, same as the flower stalks. Gardens remind us that everything is connected, and that “everything” includes us."

Julie Cerny, from The Little Gardener (Princeton Architectural Press, 2020)




As much as anything, The Little Gardener is a personal plea for reconnecting with nature for all that it can teach us. It is perfect for all of our back to school needs in science, math, ecology, nutrition and the ever important what it means to be intentionally human.

Julie Cerny's ongoing work in outdoor education works to bolster ecological literacy and learning through the garden to the natural world. It’s a great back to school curriculum in growing encouraging us all to cultivate conscious and joyful connections to all the nature in world around us.


To follow Julie's work you can find her on Instagram at: Thehappylittlegardener

Join us again next week when we head outside with artist Dustin Gimbel, his first solo show featuring colorful and often arresting ceramic variations on the artistry of plants we love is up at the Sherman Library and Gardens in Southern California through Sept 15th.


RELATED EPISODES INCLUDE:



- WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE - WILDYARDS PROJECT


- CULTIVATING A GARDENING CULTURE


- DARING TO BE WILD, MARY REYNOLDS



THINKING OUT LOUD this week..

SO.....


I love when Julie articulates this in our conversation and in her book The Little Gardener:

“And it made perfect sense. The most direct and intimate way to connect with nature is, clearly,

to eat it. A small part of it becomes a small part of you—and it fills you up a little more every time. Eventually you begin to realize that you have always been 100 percent nature, that you are made of the same components of all that you see in the natural world—your body made of water and carbon, same as the flower stalks. Gardens remind us that everything is connected, and that “everything” includes us.


I like the idea of eating the carrots and tomatoes and beans and apples that grew in the soil of the garden in which I make my life. I love how the fact that the rain fell on them, the sun warmed them, the nights cooled them, they felt the smell of the seasonal fires and that of a starry spring evening. and that in eating them I am all of these things. – I am the land I stand on – literally in my gut I am them.

We are our gardens. There’s a certain romance and gravitas to that truth being embodied in us, by us, for us.

And Julie really got me thinking about Systems (systemic being a word we are hearing a lot recently from virology to racism): nature is made up of systems that work together to create what we know as our natural world – planetary systems atmospheric systems, soil systems, water systems, plant and animal ecosystem.

Likewise our individual bodies are made up of systems: the cardiovascular system, the respiratory systems, the skeletal system, the muscular system, the nervous system, and so on. We know when even one part of one system is not feeling well or working well and the toll this can take on all systems in the whole body.

Similarly, our cultures over time and spaces have created cultural systems with which to organize our understanding and functioning as cultures – we have community systems that have allowed for organized functioning of everything from small villages to urban metropolises, we have religious systems, transportation systems, food systems educational systems and political systems.

I love when Julie shares her own experiential knowledge that a garden is a uniquely beautiful classroom where we can see and know many of these other larger systems and have the walls between them broken down in order to have those raw come alive experiences together.

And mostly – because you know I have been working the use of the word gardener – even what a possible collective noun for gardeners might be – and I LOVE LOVE LOVE when Julie speaks of us as gardeners as co-creators with our land and plants. We create the system be active conscious choice – or by inactive silence and apathy. The same is true in the ballot box and true in our families and true in our gardens.

How are your systems working?

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