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Anna Halverson

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Research Project

Anna researched the organizational, financial and political issues
involved in creating a children's garden, using the Ithaca Children's
Garden as a case study.

View Anna's thesis (349.82 KB)

To read more about Anna’s study see: Field of Dreams: A Grass-Roots Approach to Starting a Children’s Garden. Anna Halverson, Nancy Wells, Don Rakow, and Sonja Skelly, a chapter in the book Where Do the Children Play by Elizabeth Goodenough.

In the past 15 years children’s gardens have been added to many major public gardens across the country. These spaces are not just pint-sized versions of a traditional display garden. They represent an entirely new category of outdoor environment for children. They are the product of the combined influences of emerging trends in playground design, children’s museums and gardening programs for children. Understanding the historical and theoretical context in which children’s gardens have emerged explains their relevance and popularity in today’s world.

Currently many children’s gardens are being developed within the context of an existing organizational structure, such as a public garden. There are a few examples of public children’s gardens that are started entirely from the ground up through grassroots organizing. As the popularity of these environments for children continues to build, it is reasonably expected that more gardens will be started through this channel.

In order to help grass-roots organizers of new children’s gardens navigate some of the organizational aspects of the start up process, case studies of three children’s gardens and one botanical garden that were started through grass-roots organizing were conducted. An analysis of the case studies brings to light several common themes:

• Generating Initial Support
• Establishing the Mission
• Incorporating and Gaining Tax-Exempt Status
• Fundraising
• Choosing and Designing the Site

Recommendations based on these themes will help organizers create strategies that will help them build strong and lasting children’s
gardens in their communities.


Growing up in Manhattan, Anna Ford Halverson appreciates first-hand the benefits of well-designed public green spaces. For many a New Yorker, Central Park is a true oasis, providing not only a critical link to plant life and the natural environment, but also the soothing and ameliorative benefits of a garden. Although not a garden in the strict sense of the term, it was Central Park that inspired Anna's interest in public gardens. The belief in the social benefits of public open space advocated by Central Park's designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, resonated deeply with her. In the field of Public Garden Management, Anna is committed to sustaining the legacy of public gardens that bring people of all backgrounds together and build stronger communities. New York City's Central Park is still one of her favorite places.
Anna studied political science and English at Wellesley College before turning her sights to gardens. After college Anna studied Landscape Design at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. She learned the practical skills of landscape design-drafting, site engineering and construction methods-as well as the creative aspects such as design principles, site design and planting design. While in school she gained hand-on experience working at a nursery in Northern Virginia and with a landscape designer in Georgetown. Before moving to Ithaca, Anna also did design work on a freelance basis, designing and drafting landscape plans for residential and institutional clients in the Washington, D.C. area.

In Ithaca Anna has volunteered at Cornell Plantations, helping Kevin Moss, the Community Outreach Coordinator, with various volunteer projects. During the apple harvest season she led tours of elementary school children through the Cornell Orchards. She has also helped teach an after-school ecology program at Ithaca's ScienCenter for children in middle school.

As a fellow in the Public Garden Management program, Anna will focus on the benefits of children's gardens for her MPS research topic. Her coursework in this first semester includes Hot Topics in Public Garden Management, Plants & Human Well-Being, Cognitive Development, Environment & Health, and Managing and Leading in Organizations.
Anna is currently working with the organizers of the nascent Ithaca Children's Garden. She is concentrating on various developmental and site design initiatives. The Ithaca Children's Garden will be a 3-acre public garden for children of all ages, situated at the southern end of Cass Park, near the shores of Lake Cayuga.

In her spare time Anna enjoys being part of a book club, learning to quilt, cooking, and training for her first marathon.