Great horticultural therapy minds garden alike!

Oooh! Grass...

Oooh! Grass…

Spring has officially shown up on our doorsteps, and the time for seeding and dreaming of our summer gardens has begun! Although I can’t really feel spring in the air temperature yet, I have noticed longer days, the seeding calendar countdown pace quickening and an increased melody of bird song filling the air.

Speaking of the air, there seems to be a trend among my fellow horticultural therapists this month.  I never thought I would say this sentence but, growing grass heads seems to be in vogue this season! (Further supported by the volume of pins available on Pinterest.)

The new greenhouse at the Center for Independence

The new greenhouse at the Center for Independence

Last Saturday I attended a Mid-Atlantic Horticultural Therapy Network  meeting at the Center for Independence in Livingston, New Jersey. We were hosted by Patricia Czarnecki, HTR, MBA who runs the greenhouse program for the Center and works specifically with high school students and adults on the autism spectrum, providing differing levels of vocational training. While spending a beautiful afternoon in the Center’s new greenhouse, I had the opportunity to share ideas, meet new people and catch up with friends, all of whom share my passion for plants and people! This group of horticultural therapists is very diverse, and it’s membership boasts a plethora of knowledge and experience in the field.

For a fun activity, Pat led a demo on creating, essentially, homemade “chia pets.” We shared lots of laughs at the expense of the project – let’s face it – they’re not exactly high brow. However, they are a lot of fun and a great way to teach or review key concepts of germination. In addition, projects like these help students who are motivated by sensory stimulation become engaged and stay focused while putting their senses to work. A few of the opportunities for sensory stimulation are as follows:

  • Moistening dirt with your hands
  • Filling a knee high stocking with soil and molding it into a shape
  • Seeding the right areas, allowing the seed to filter through one’s fingers
  • Smelling the earthy scent of fresh greenery
  • Running one’s fingers through the grass once it grows
  • Cutting the grass once it becomes tall


In another locale, on the Green Chimneys campus, our very own dedicated volunteer, Ms. Deirdre, was planning a project of a similar nature.  As part of her coursework on the road to becoming a registered horticultural therapist, she had committed to presenting a lesson this week to one of our elementary classes. When she suggested grass heads, and texted me a picture of a few of her creations, I knew my Tuesday morning class would enjoy her proposed project.

The morning class went really well, and the students had such a good time with all of the tactile elements of the project that we decided to try the lesson with a sixth grade class. They enjoyed it as much as the second grade (and almost as much as my fellow MAHTN members at our meeting Saturday), and even worked a bit more independently and created some unique creatures! There’s just something in the air this time of year, something that makes us want to plant and have a bit of fun.

If you have any interesting projects cropping up-tell me! You can post a comment below and share your creativity. And as our grass creatures begin to grow, I will post some photos of finished projects!


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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