Naturalist in Residence: Lauryn Smith Demyanovich
Through child-led, collaborative, and small group work, the MdTL Naturalist program focuses on much more than gardening. Besides the many small gardens across campus, children also enjoy access to our school community garden, which serves as our main Naturalist outdoor classroom. While planting and harvesting are components of the Naturalist program, the ultimate goal is to connect our students with the outdoors by providing opportunities for them to dig in the dirt, observe local wildlife and create with natural materials.
Students enjoy sampling edible plants, making teas and natural dyes, and creating crafts with various materials found in the garden. Activities are both structured and spontaneous. Students make sculptures from the garden clay, build forts, structures and even bridges over the running water in the rainy season. They can be found making ropes, wreaths and crowns. They observe plant and insect life cycles, watch the birds and squirrels building their nests and raising their young, and track who has been nearby in our absence by looking at animal scat and prints. Students are offered opportunities to become immersed in nature and be inspired by the wild and ever-changing garden.
Our Naturalist program has expanded to encompass working with our younger, Primary students, and also serves elementary students, grades 1-3, and 4-6 where small groups of children visit the garden and engage in a variety of captivating educational and nature connection activities. Our garden is truly an outdoor classroom, meant to be a wild place with insects, amphibians, birds and squirrels, where children are guided in nature studies and exploration as they connect with and care for their outdoor environment.