How do we measure success?

Last year we hosted our first on-campus plant sale, featuring Jade, Cuban oregano and scented geranium. The plants we sold were started and cared for by our students. (Check out  my post from October 2013 for a recap.) The first sale was such a success that I knew I wanted to make the “Pop-Up Plant Store” an annual event.

How do we measure the success of a plant sale at Green Chimneys?


Alex, Aidan Riley, Joe and Jack enjoy some bonding time between customers.

  • The more kids that are involved, the better! You wouldn’t believe how many salespeople are just waiting to be born.
  • The more positive social interactions afforded to some of our more introverted students, the better! Interacting with staff and students in a supportive environment gives some of our kids the experience they need to begin to come out of their shell.




Theo hangs our “Sweet Annie Swags” artfully around our canopy

  •  The more we can highlight our program and showcase the genuine interest our students have in the natural world, the better! Not everyone is a believer…yet.
  • The more opportunities we can give our students to work in real life scenarios, the better! Always aiming for independence is my mantra.
  • The more plant lovers we can cultivate, the better! Let’s face it, plant people are usually pretty grounded, environmentally conscious folk. Though this may seem biased, my notion does come from many years of working in a small gardening shop; our customers, for the most part, fit the mold I described.

I decided to assign Ms. Murphy’s 9th grade class to work on the preparations for the plant sale.  This group of students already seem to have a good vibe about them,  and I knew they would enjoy the idea of being the lead class in our efforts. The first thing we had to decide was, who should be the beneficiary of our sale? After polling the students for ideas, we took a vote. The group the majority wanted to help were veterans. Many students made mention of family members and friends they had in the military. It was very touching to see how many of our students feel so strongly about the heroes in our military that serve and protect us daily, often sacrificing so much of their own lives.

Once we decided on helping a cause related to veterans, it was time to choose a particular charity. I love the idea of helping out people we have a real connection with but didn’t want to single out one student by offering the proceeds to their relative. How would all the other students with veterans in their family feel about not being chosen?

In talking about this dilemma with my director, Michael Kaufmann, he came up with a great idea. High Hopes Therapeutic Riding in Old Lyme, CT (not too far from us) serves a host of people with different disabilities, including veterans. The parallel of our own equine-assisted therapy offered at Green Chimneys with that at High Hopes lends a natural fit to us partnering with them. Our kids loved the idea of being able to “purchase” a few riding sessions for a veteran and perhaps their family. It’s activities and outreach like this that help us to create our own family and sense of community right here on our campus. I guess that’s one more way we can judge whether or not our plant sales are successful!

Our plant sale raised about $200, however I still have several trays of plants left. I’m considering having a blow-out sale one day in our small greenhouse. Now that my classes are back inside (for the most part) our summer-abandoned greenhouse is coming back to life as we dust away cobwebs, stow away garden supplies for the winter and begin the whole process of learning how to propagate and care for plants once again. The timing is perfect, because the sale piqued the interest of many of my students to have their own plant to care for.

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About Green Chimneys Garden

Green Chimneys was founded on the belief that children will benefit from their interaction with nature and animals. Horticulture comes to life in our educational school gardens, allowing Green Chimneys students to heal, learn, and grow. Learn more about about our nature-based approach to special education by visiting
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One Response to How do we measure success?

  1. karenzai says:

    I’ve been volunteering with kids with developmental disabilities, and now have a profound respect for their parents and educators! God bless you.

    And I thought you’d appreciate this:

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