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Education Underfoot

Loveland Learning Garden Helps Young Ones Develop Green Thumbs

For nearly two decades, Granny’s Garden School has dug in to provide hands-on, green-thumb garden experiences for children in the Loveland area and beyond.

This spring, however, will be especially notable for the organization. “Since we had to suspend teaching last year due to COVID,” board president Laurie Flanagan says, “we opted to use the time to refresh our identity.” This change is one that’s allowed them “to emphasize our community connection, to convey our renewed, progressive intention, and better reflect our purpose.”

Which is to say, Laurie continues, that this spring the organization will be emerging with an evolved name: Loveland Learning Garden … “nurturing minds in nature.”

The nonprofit, volunteer-run organization takes a great deal of pride in their mission, Laurie says—pointing to lifelong benefits that stem from “playful experiences exploring nature.” In her words, it’s all about helping students discover “the connections between ourselves, plants, land, air, water, and other living creatures.”

This time of year is perfect for reconnecting with the outdoors, and the program’s a big hit with students and volunteers alike.

“It's just a smart thing, to get kids outside,” Laurie says. “By sharing the joy and wonder that can be found outdoors, we’re helping to grow the next generation who will learn how to love and care for our environment.” It’s important for anyone, she adds, to “connect with what’s natural and real around us.”

Today, the Loveland Learning Garden is considered one of the most comprehensive programs of its kind, and serves as a national role model. A 20-week outdoor curriculum is planned in partnership with 1st–4th grade teachers to ensure alignment with the subjects students are learning in class. The organization oversees vegetable gardens, a plethora of flower beds, and a nature trail—all told, serving about 1,200 students.

Aside from tending to the next generation, there are other ways the Loveland Learning Garden puts community first—for example, a relationship with the Loveland LIFE Food Pantry has routed a great deal of their produce into needy hands. “During the pandemic, we had the schools’ support to use our schoolyard garden to grow and donate more than 1,200 pounds of fresh vegetables to the LIFE Food Pantry,” Laurie reports. And, even when students return to the garden and nature trail this fall, she told us firsthand that “we plan to continue that program of growing and giving back.”

Laurie, who’s lived in Loveland for the past 25 years and has three children of her own, enjoys the educational collaboration of programs like this. Over the last three years, new volunteer leaders have focused on re-energizing the schoolyard garden program for Loveland Primary and Loveland Elementary students,” she says, in close collaboration with school administration and staff.

“We live in a caring community where people help each other, want to lend a hand to good causes, and where residents see a need … then take action to fill the gaps,” Laurie continues.

“Our school system is filled with incredible teachers who truly care about the progress of their students and seek innovative ways to educate,” she says. “We’re happy our nonprofit can help them and their classes by playing a supporting educational role.”

Help and Volunteer
The Loveland Learning Garden is a 501c3 nonprofit funded solely through donations, grants and fundraisers. “We look for volunteers of all ages,” Laurie says. “To help tend the garden and nature trail March through October, and to help on our various committees like education, communications and fundraising.” To learn more, volunteer or contribute to this growing organization, visit their website or email | 600 Loveland-Madeira Rd.