Recipient: Andrew J. Sell, The University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment

Project: Evaluating The Gaffield Children’s Garden & Nature Play at Home

Site: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI

Advisor: Robert E. Grese, Director The University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

Interim Project Report:

The summer has been a flurry of activity at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and I along with the organization have been tremendously honored to work on a project supported by the Garden Club of America’s Hope Goddard Iselin Fellowship. As the principal investigator on the Gaffield Children’s Garden study, I am in charge of the study’s architectural structure, including designing methods to evaluate the Garden, it’s spaces and visitorship, while finding ways to quantify how nature play is perceived and utilized in home landscapes. The study design includes a survey of children’s gardens across North America, interviews with garden managers, a survey of Matthaei-Nichols visitors, an observation study of the Gaffield Children’s Garden space use, along with a focus group and workshop with volunteers, parents, grandparents, and teachers. The work, which benefits Matthaei-Nichols and other public gardens also serves as the culminating thesis of my Master’s Degree at the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Under the guidance of Director, Robert Grese, we’ve had a phenomenal response and an upwelling of support from staff at children’s gardens across the U.S. along with support of parents who visit the Gaffield Children’s Garden at Matthaei. With much of the web surveys and focus groups complete, the study continues into the fall for on-site survey of school groups, observations and workshop implementation. Summarizing responses and checking data has been important to gauge study trends. I anticipate much of the data analysis to be completed starting in early winter 2016.

Director Grese and I are pleased with the responses thus far and are hopeful this project has a lasting impact on public gardens across the U.S. We see this research to benefit not only Matthaei in the redevelopment of the Garden Children’s Garden, but other public gardens who may use the input to edit or design their own children’s gardens to inspire nature play at home. Through our surveys and interventions, we’re confident that we’re raising awareness of the importance of unstructured play in natural environs for parents, grandparents, and the like.


Recipient: David Pease, University of Tennessee

Project: ‘DIG IT!’

Site: University of Tennessee Gardens, Knoxville, TN

Interim Project Report:

New and exciting things are happening here at University of Tennessee Gardens with my project and research thanks to the generous Iselin Fellowship award from GCA. This summer has been quite a rollercoaster for me beginning with the unprecedented experience of receiving the Iselin Fellowship award at APGA Miami, attending the conference, workshops and networking, seeing the end of my beloved Every Child Outdoors Youth Gardening Program, but also seeing the beginning of my pilot program ‘DIG IT!’ at the UT Gardens and preparing my research proposal on the effects of an integrated gardening and creative arts program on at-risk youths’ self-efficacy and stress. In July my former research assistantship with the ECO program ended. In August I was appointed as a GTA with the Dept. of Plant Sciences and fortunately also became a part time staff member in outreach and education working with the Director of Education at UT Gardens. ‘DIG IT!’ began its first program on August 25 with students from Vine Magnet Middle School SMART Institute afterschool program. Students will attend 24 weekly programs throughout this academic year at the UT Gardens. Despite living just a few miles from our gardens, none of the students had ever been here before and were fascinated by the gardens last week. We are still awaiting research approval from the IRB and will commence data collection with a pre-survey as soon as we receive approval.


Click here for more information about the GCA Hope Goddard Iselin Fellowship.