New (free!) Guide to Gardening with Kids


Inspired to start a gardening program for kids at your school or elsewhere?

The American Horticultural Society has just teamed up with Cornell University to update their FREE online guide to starting gardening programs for children. Titled Sowing the Seeds of Success: How to Start and Sustain a Kids’ Gardening Project in your Community,” the 160-page downloadable guide is designed to address “the increased interest in school and community garden projects and the troubling issues of food insecurity and nature deficit disorder.”

It can be used by communities anywhere in North America and around the world. The guide includes sections designed for different audiences, along with relevant activities, program tools, and links to additional resources.

Fiona Doherty of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell sees the guide as a resource for empowering youth with the confidence and “skills to become our next generation of environmental stewards.”

Get your guide at For more resources for starting a school garden, check out our blog post on School Garden Resources for Teachers. If you’re not a teacher, but want to help one out with tons of lesson plans and other practical help for getting kids outside of the classroom to learn, feel free to share!

School Garden Teacher Resources

Tools to help non-gardeners teach lessons in an outdoor classroom


School gardens aren’t just a great way to incorporate some outdoor time into your kids’ school day — they also offer countless opportunities for teachers to bring STEM lessons to life (literally).

But asking overburdened teachers, who may not be gardeners themselves, to figure out how to add a gardening project to their busy day that also aligns with ever-changing curriculum standards, can understandably be a huge stumbling block.

Have you already done the work to get a school garden started, but don’t see teachers using it? Or do you need to convince administration that one can be a useful teaching tool before you can break ground? Here’s a list of practical resources you can share with teachers. We’ve included school garden teacher training, lesson plans, planting plans, worksheets and teaching tools, videos, and complete outdoor classroom curricula. We’ve also included just a few resources to find grants (start with the first one to uncover a treasure trove of options).

Just a few of the lesson plans available from
These are just a few of the lesson plans available from

Some of these school garden teaching resources are suitable for outdoor classrooms throughout the US, but we’ve focused on ones developed to align with Georgia curriculum standards. If you are looking for other states, reach out to your Cooperative Extension Service or 4-H program to see if they can help you find ones suitable for your teaching standards and growing conditions, or take a look at this extensive list from the UGA Extension School Garden Resource Website. The Cooperative Extension Service may even be able to connect you with some helpful Master Gardener Extension Volunteers who can help assist with your school gardening projects!

School garden lesson plans

Need more inspiration and lesson plans? Visit our School Garden Teacher Resources Pinterest board!

School Garden Planning Tools

Of course, all those lessons need a place to happen. Here are some tools for planning and designing your school garden:

School Garden Teacher Training

School Garden Grants

And finally, if the spirit is willing but the budget is weak, here are just a few starting points for finding funding to make your school garden dreams come true. We recommend starting with EE in Georgia, which has tons of options.

And yes, there are tons more of these kinds of resources out there, but we wanted to give a manageable list that should give your school gardening program a great start, and your teachers some easy resources that won’t take a ton of time or training to use.

See more on our Pinterest board!

Where Bugs Check In…


Usually, “bugs” and “hotels” are two words you don’t want to hear together. But the current exhibit at Fernbank’s outdoor Nature Gallery, part of their new WildWoods attraction, turns that idea upside down.

This adorable, accessible, and imitable exhibit showcases an important way we can all help support pollinators and other “good bugs” in our own backyards. Bugs need a safe haven, just like every other living creature. So the Fernbank Museum of Natural History invited their local partners to build their own version of a “bug hotel” to help create habitats that provide a place to rest, nest, or hibernate.

Each is designed to roll out the welcome mat to different species of invertebrates, including bees, ladybugs, and cicadas, and some also support vertebrates like frogs and salamanders.

img_6654 Some, like the one from Woodlands Garden, are simple boxes filled with stacks of pinecones and hollow bamboo stalks. Fernbank’s own contribution was an artful sculpture of a bee, made of moss and other natural objects around a metal frame. The Wylde Center made theirs stand out with colorful cinderblocks. And our favorite name was the “Air Bee & Bee” from the Olmstead Linear Park Alliance.

Constructing your own bug hotel is the perfect family outdoor project! The materials are free, the design is up to you, and the rewards are a more robust and diverse ecosystem, no matter the size of your yard. You might even be lucky enough to attract a woodpecker like the one we saw, surely enjoying a few hotel guests!

Bringing bugs to your yard feeds the birds, helps grow flowers, and builds your soil!

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out the adorable Pins on Bee Better’s “Bug Bungalow” Pinterest board. If you’re looking for other outdoor projects you can do with your kids, see our Pinterest board on Outdoor Kid Activities.

Celebrate #NPS100 for FREE this weekend!


The National Park Service celebrates its 100th year this weekend, with FREE admission at all National Park sites! If you’re thinking, “Well, too bad Georgia doesn’t have a National Park for me to go enjoy,” you might be happily surprised to know that not all National Park sites are big, traditional parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.

The National Park Service also maintains National Historic Sites (like the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthplace in Atlanta); National Battlefield Parks like Kennesaw Mountain in Northwest Georgia; National Monuments like Fort Pulaski in Savannah; National Recreation Areas like the Chattahoochee River; National Seashores like Cumberland Island; and National Scenic Trails like the Appalachian Trail (starting on Springer Mountain in GA).

Here’s the full list of National Park Service sites in Georgia; the one we are planning on (finally) visiting is the National Heritage Area at Arabia Mountain. Panola Mountain State Park is right next door, so we might even get there in time for the guided Morning Mountain Hike (if not, there’s still the Creature Feature at 2 or the GO Pokemon weekend going on all weekend).

Does back to school means back inside?


It’s back to school time here in Georgia. And suddenly, outside play comes to a grinding halt. But does it have to be like that? If your child spends most of their day at school, maybe the answer is to add in the outdoors to their regular school routine.

There’s lot to be said about the trend to integrate “nature play” into school curriculum (including nature preschools, which we will look at later). But for now, I just want to highlight a couple of conferences and programs that can help you & your child’s educator start understanding how to make that work at your school.

A lot can be done by empowered, passionate parents & teachers working together, and these conference can give you a great place to start.

Weekend Roundup, 7/29/2016-7/31/2016


Didn’t get through your summer (sand)bucket list? Don’t worry, we didn’t either. We did have some cool adventures, though (even if that time was spent at the expense of regular blog posts). But if you’re looking to squeeze in a few more family outings — with the emphasis on “out” — before school starts, check out our event calendar for fun, affordable options like these:

Pokemon GO – Love it or hate it, it’s getting kids outside and nature venues are noticing… Here are three Pokemon hikes to check out this weekend (and we bet there will be more to come):

Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! Or, go exploring for some real-life critters on this bug-hunting hike at Birdsong Nature Center in Southwest Georgia guided by an invertebrate zoologist and his 10-year-old son.

Evening boat tours – Beat the heat with these sundown boat and paddle adventures:

  • Twilight Lake Lanier Paddle at Don Carter State Park (check their website for other nights if this weekend doesn’t work for you). Rent one of their kayaks or save money by bringing your own.
  • Twilight Pontoon Boat Tour at Reed Bingham State Park – watch how scenery and animal life changes with the setting sun.

Weekend Events, 6/24-6/26/2016

We took a break from posting weekend previews while we took an extended trip out west, but we’re back and excited about what there is to do back home in Georgia! Here’s a sample, and there’s more on our event calendar at

Wild Cave Tours, Cloudland Canyon State Park – Guides will educate you on cave formations, bats, and geology while your family has fun getting muddy and wet climbing and crawling your way through a wild cave.

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! Birdsong Nature Center – Go on an exploratory nature hike with an invertebrate zoologist and his son that will provide insight into the abundance, diversity, habits and ecology of some of the bugs that occur at Birdsong and probably in your backyard. We will capture a variety of them, hopefully including dung beetles, and examine them close up.

Discovery Stations, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville location – A variety of informal educational stations showcase different topics on the Garden’s natural environment. Find out about other children’s programs at this and other botanical gardens around Georgia in our recent blog post.

Water Wonders, F.D. Roosevelt State Park – Drop by and dip in to see what inhabitants live in our lakes. We provide nets, viewing scopes, and lots of interesting discoveries.

And don’t forget that during the summer, there are more weekday options, too, so check out our event calendar for ideas if you need to get away from the screens! The Life in the Tidal Creeks program at Skidaway Island State Park has us tempted to make an impromptu beach trip….



Do your kids dig archaeology?

This weekend’s weather might not be so great, but it shouldn’t put the damper on Saturday’s Archaeology Day event at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. It’s part of May’s month-long Georgia Archaeology Awareness Month, sponsored in part by the Society for Georgia Archaeology, the National Park Service, and the Southeast Archaeological Center. Also this weekend is the free program, Archaeologists Search for Clues, held at Fort Frederica on St. Simon’s Island. Still to come is the Kids’ Archaeology Day, scheduled for June 11 at Hardman Farms State Historic Site. Last weekend’s Artifact ID Day at the Etowah Indian Mounds was another of the events planned as part of this program.

Kids might also be interested in hearing about “Georgia’s First Dig” at Hardman Farms State Historic Site. Hear about the first professional archaeological dig in Georgia with Archaeologist Max White, PhD. The Nacoochee Mound was partially excavated in 1915. Questions about who built it and what was discovered will be addressed as well as the significance of the dig. Call 706-878-1077 to register.

If these events spark — or play into — an interest in digging into the past, you might want to check out these other places or programs that focus on archaeology for kids in Georgia:

  • Autrey Mill Nature Preserve has a number of history and heritage programs, and also has several historic collections, including one of Southeastern Indian projectile points. Their After-school Explorer program for 2016 included a day devoted to Archaeology, and their field trips include a “History’s Detectives” program.
  • Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park often hosts archaeology-themed programs.
  • Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Park does, too. They recently had whole day of programs that brought the past to life with demonstrations of dugout canoe-making and more.

Older kids who are really interested in hands-on archaeology might want to check out the kid-friendly volunteer opportunities through the US Forest Service’s Passport in Time program (you’ll need to be interested, too, since parental supervision is required).

Weekend Events, May 13-15, 2016

Another weekend chock-full of outdoor programs and activities for kids and families! Here’s a recap, with more details and search functions on our Events page at

  • We recently profiled some great reasons to take your kids to Georgia’s botanical gardens. Several of the events we profiled are coming up this weekend, including Endangered Species Day at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Discovery Stations at their new Gainesville location, and a free Astronomy Day/Gazing in the Garden event at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden in Savannah.
  • Want another nighttime option? Friday night has a Scorpion Hunt at Hard Labor Creek State Park. (HINT: You can search our events calendar by both “night” and “stargazing” for more options like this.)
  • Didn’t get enough Mother’s Day fun last weekend? Have the kids take you out for a paddle at Fort McAllister State Park! Never done it before? Take a Kayak 101 course at Laura S. Walker State Park.
  • Raising junior hunters or fisherfolk? J.A.K.E.S Day is all about hunter education and safety for kids, and fishing derbies at Victoria Bryant State Park and International Park “The Beach” in Jonesboro give them a chance to win prizes if they reel in a big one. For another upcoming fishing event where kids can keep what they catch, visit a new, unopened State Park next weekend for the Buck Shoals Youth Fishing Day.
  • Have your kids found something cool recently? Or just interested in what it’s like to be Indiana Jones? Take them to the Archaelogy & Artifact ID Day at Etowah Indian Mounds, where archaelogists will help you ID your object and tell you about a career in their field.

For other up-to-the-minute ideas of where to go, be our friend on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!

Great Georgia Gardens for Kids

georgia gardens

Think a trip to the botanical garden is just for grownups? Check out all the exciting programs gardens around Georgia offer just for kids!

The Atlanta Botanical Garden has a Children’s Garden just for them, but be aware: it’s closed until sometime in June to allow for a fabulous renovation/play space construction project to be finalized. Once it’s ready, it’ll be a great way to get in some active play in the middle of the city – or be a fun jumping off point for exploring the Atlanta BeltLine.

But even with the Children’s Garden on a temporary hiatus, there are still lots of great programs for kids at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. May 14 is a special celebration of Endangered Species Day, with all sorts of hands on interaction and info about conservation efforts in Georgia. There are also lots of recurring weekday programs for preschoolers, like Garden Playtime, Garden Grooves and Storybook Time. All are free with garden admission (if you plan to go regularly, a family membership will pay off quickly). On weekends, Amphitheater Programs bring a variety of live performances from some of Atlanta’s best storytellers and musicians. They also offer some cool summer camps, but unfortunately all are sold out for 2016 (for other options, see our Summer Camp Roundup). Homeschoolers also have a special day set aside on May 25 (for more homeschool nature programs, check out our recent post).

The Atlanta Botanical Garden now also has a Gainesville location, with more great kids’ programs for the Northeast Region of the state. Train lovers will be thrilled by the Model Train Garden, and can even play with the boxes of trains there for sharing. Other regular kids programs include Story Time and Smiles, Budding Artists (a chance to make seasonally-inspired works of art), and Children’s Performances. Discovery Stations are set up every weekend to showcase different topics on the Garden’s natural environment, so you can go at your own pace to learn and explore.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, GA, also offers a number of children’s and school outreach programs, including Family Festivals, field trips, Adventure Packs for homeschoolers and other self-guided groups, after school nature clubs and summer camps. There are also a number of short woodland rambles, with the option of connecting to longer hiking trails, if you want to stretch your legs a bit.

The Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden in Savannah is hosting an Astronomy Day on May 14, followed by a free Gazing in the Garden event that evening. Telescopes are provided by the Oglethorpe Astronomical Association, who will also be on hand to offer advice if you’re in the market for one of your own. They also host nature walks and educational programs for schools, scouts, and homeschool groups on topics like pollination, poetry in the garden, and the water cycle. They also offer strawberry picking while they’re ripe (check their website for availability and hours).

Woodlands Garden in Decatur hosts the M.A.Y.Fair (Music, Art & Youth) in spring and Fairies in the Garden in fall. It’s a great add-on trip to Fernbank Museum of Natural History, just a mile or two away.

Most nature centers around Georgia also have display gardens to give your family examples of native plants, butterfly gardens, and other plants that can help attract and feed wildlife in your yard. The Chattahoochee Nature Center has a particularly nice one. Once you’ve been inspired, take the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and start one in your own yard (or even a container)!