Supplementary Content from 

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Authored by Patsy Benveniste, Sharon Lee and Don Rakow.  This article appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Museum, the Journal of the American Alliance of Museums. 


Nature Gardens – Bringing the Wild into the Heart of L.A.

Authored by Virginia Hayes.  This article appeared in the summer 2014 issue of Pacific Horticulture


Supplementary Content from 

A Play on Words

By Valerie Bang-Jensen

Valerie Bang-Jensen is professor of education at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont.


Make Your Own Word Garden

Word Gardens-—gardens made up of moveable word stones rather than plant material— can be designed for any purpose and budget. Many schools and libraries have created their own versions, circumventing the cost of sandblasting words onto stones by scribing with Sharpies, offering chalk to students, or painting the words with a shellac finish. In the Mordecai Children’s Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens, there are stones with each letter of the alphabet inscribed in Sharpie ink; one side sports the capital letter, and the other side the lower case one. This way, a visitor may spell any word. The Memphis Botanic Gardens and others use “story stones” with images rather than words. Curricular connections can be made by creating a set of words related to a book or topic. Ford Elementary School in Acworth, Georgia, has created a “Pathway to Freedom” with boulders representing important documents or events in the Revolutionary War, with movable vocabulary words and significant players. Students might pair “freedom” with “Paul Revere” and the “Battle of Lexington” to apply their social studies learning.  Public gardens or libraries might encourage a seasonal theme or featured topic.

Because the Word Garden at Saint Michael’s College serves many purposes, we curate the set of words with both play and serious work in mind. We favor verbs, and look for words that can serve more than one meaning such as: rumble, dare, blossom, and flake. Users get more mileage out of our word collection when we are creative; stress + ing¬ can spell stressing but composing it with two different stones, one with the root word and a different stone with the suffix means that we can use stress independently (or with the ed suffix we also have), and ing can be applied to many other words as well.

Every year on our Community Service Day, we take inventory of the words. The garden has no fence, gate, or barrier to anyone in the college or local community, and we have been pleased that the vast majority of the collection remains in place for all to use. If a few have “walked” away, or suffered a chip or break, we are always interested in soliciting new suggestions from the campus community.  Based on these ideas, we plan to include words in languages other than English, to increase the number of stones with numerals, and to add a stone alphabet.  A carefully worded invitation on the Word Garden title stone reminds visitors of the rules.

Video: “The Word Garden Arrives

The Teaching Gardens of Saint Michael’s College