Garden Education

The garden classroom is tucked into a sunny corner of the IslandWood campus. The first planting was in the fall of 2002, and the garden has since grown into an integral part of the IslandWood experience. Our goal is to share our love of fresh food with our students and adult visitors, and to empower our students to taste new foods. We hope to inspire our students to try growing their own fresh fruits and vegetables.

About the Garden

The garden beds are thoughtfully designed and planted to provide a variety of tastes, colors, smells, and culinary uses. We hope that in our sensory and tasting tours, children will be able to appreciate fresh produce in its original form, not encased in plastic or as part of a cooked meal. Pulling a carrot or potato from the soil is a new and exciting experience for many of our students! And most every child leaves the garden with a new favorite veggie. We love to grow as many different food crops as we can, so that most everyone will find something here that is both familiar and new. Our beautiful greenhouse classroom helps us to extend our growing season through the winter months. 

Our garden was made possible by the generosity of our founders, Heide Felton, Deb Fenwick and Anne Lennartz, and we are deeply grateful for their contributions. In addition, many volunteers, IslandWood graduate students, children and staff help to keep our garden growing.

About the Gardeners

Jen Prodzinski, MS, Master Gardener, Lead Garden Educator

I love kids, digging in the soil, fresh food, cooking, and watching things grow - so being a Garden Educator at IslandWood is my perfect job! My favorite fall/winter veggie is Brussels sprouts - roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper. In the summer, it’s cherry tomatoes right off the vine! I’m a native Pacific Northwesterner and have lived on Bainbridge for nearly 10 years. I’m married to Brett and we have two amazing kids. I’m a Master Gardener so you may see me at the Bainbridge Farmer’s Market or helping at the Raab Park Youth Garden in Poulsbo. When I’m not digging in the soil, I’m likely walking, running, biking, hiking, baking, or watching my kids play soccer.

Megan Carson, BA, Master Gardener, Blogger, Garden Educator

I simply cannot remember when I wasn't digging in the dirt and trying to grow things. I am fascinated by our natural world, and sharing my enthusiasm for plants and fresh food comes naturally. I grew up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and moved to Bainbridge Island over 20 years ago. My husband Brian and I have a full, noisy house with three daughters. We also have four goats (two of which we bottle-fed as newborns), two rabbits and a large vegetable garden. When we aren’t watching our daughters’ many sporting events, we spend our time boating on the Puget Sound, camping and enjoying our garden at home. My favorite summer meal is fresh pesto pasta made from our garden basil. In the winter, I love being able to harvest buttery yellow potatoes for roasting.

Garden Lessons

Almost every student who comes to IslandWood spends some time in the garden, learning about food production, harvest, sustainability, local and organic foods, compost, nutrient cycling and ecosystem and farm-to-table connections.

Our core IslandWood lessons are also easily taught in the garden classroom. Producers, Consumers and Decomposers, Abiotic and Biotic, Compost, and Food Cycle lessons, food history, soil science, ecosystems and stewardship are just a few of the topics we explore here. We invite students to be curious and explore the garden space, and they frequently forget they are in a “classroom”! Garden activities and art are also fully integrated into the SOP curriculum, and we are able to have a very interactive focus on the food cycle. The students’ food waste in the dining hall becomes compost in our earth tub bins, which then gets spread onto our garden beds. This compost feeds our soil, which feeds our plants, which then nourishes our students! It’s easy for students to see how they fit into the food cycle while in a garden.

Garden Bees

One of our favorite lessons to teach in the garden classroom is our honeybee and pollinator lesson. We have two honeybee hives, which offer endless fascination for our students. In fact, even though many of our students come to the garden with some fear of bees, they leave the garden with information and an understanding of the difference between wasps and honeybees. Once students study the complex lives of the honeybee and get a taste of our fresh garden honey, any fear they came with is transformed into a new appreciation and love of our honeybees. We’re pretty sure the honey tasting is a large part of their enthusiasm! We also have a part of our garden devoted to Pacific Northwest native pollinators. This interactive, educational area focuses on the importance of native pollinators, how they interact with plants and our food supply, and how our students can help to keep their habitats healthy.

Soil to Snack and Recipes

Soil to Snack is the name of the larger garden/cooking program that we offer each week. The program is a two-hour food experience which includes tasting and harvesting fresh garden produce, a garden lesson that involves tracing the food they eat back to farms and gardens, and then meeting Chef Ben in the dining hall for hands-on cooking! Our menu for this program changes with the seasons as we use seasonally fresh food.