“It’s bizarre that the produce manager is more important to my children’s health than the pediatrician.” Meryl Streep

In 2002, years ahead of the school garden movement that is now sweeping the globe, a grandmother approached the principal at her grandchildren’s grade school in Loveland, OH and asked permission to create a garden on the school grounds. This was the beginning of Granny’s Garden School (GGS).

The program grew into a non-profit organization that develops and manages garden and nature based programs on elementary school grounds. We remove obstacles that often prevent a school from offering outdoor education by providing infrastructure, personnel, volunteers, integrated curriculum and project management to support the program.

Our outdoor classrooms are used to enhance classroom study.  We help schools make greater use of their grounds, and the wider environment, as a teaching resource.

Today, the flagship program (with its 120 vegetable gardens, many flower gardens and two nature trails) serves all of Loveland’s nearly 1,600 first-fourth grade students (3 public schools). Our 20 week, in-school program makes it one of the largest and most comprehensive school garden programs in the country.

In 2014 we launched a pilot satellite program at Stewart Elementary, the largest of eight elementary schools in Princeton City Schools. In 2015 we are expanding the program to include all of Stewart’s nearly 500 pre-school-5th grade students.  We hope to take the program to all of Princeton’s elementary schools in the next five years.

The rest of the story…. 

The seed for the idea that grew into Granny’s Garden School began in Roberta (Granny) Paolo’s own gardens. While serving as “Granny Nanny” to her two young grandchildren, Nicole and Steven, then ages four and five, she moved to a little bungalow just down the street from Loveland Primary School.

Learning how to use a drill while helping Grandma create temporary cold frames. Nicole drilled the holes and Steven put in the screws.

The children grew up in Granny’s backyard gardens picking green beans, digging potatoes, pulling carrots, making bouquets and playing in the soil. In her effort to create a nurturing environment for them, she created a special place that attracted both adults and children. The rule in Granny’s gardens then (and .now) was that flowers are for picking. Whenever children passed the gardens, Granny would invite them to select a flower, and she would pick it for them. When adults stopped to admire the gardens, she would pick them a bouquet while they talked.

Play house, fence and bridge build from throw away scrap lumber with a pallet as a base.

As her grandchildren and her gardens grew, Granny realized the positive effect flowers have on people of all ages.  Along the way, she decided she wanted to find a way to give even more children the opportunity to pick flowers.

In the fall of 2001, Granny was picking up her grandchildren (then in first and second grade) from Loveland Primary School, when she noticed a lady planting mums on the school grounds.  “It was as if a light bulb went off in my head at that moment,” she says. “It had never occurred to me until that time that someone could plant something at school.” Granny introduced herself to the lady, Nancy Garfinkel, the librarian assistant, who said, “I am tired of everything looking so barren.”

Granny shared with Nancy her desire to make it possible for kids to plant and pick flowers. Nancy introduced her to school administrators and the grounds manager. Three weeks later, they were all there to support Granny when she made her presentation to the Loveland School Board. By the time that presentation was made, the original desire to give children an opportunity to pick flowers had developed into the beginning of the Granny’s Garden School programs that exist today.