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Innovation SummaryA centerpiece of the environmental, health and nutrition education components of Howard County Library System's (HCLS) mission, the Enchanted Garden combines a library branch and a working garden (food and ornamental plants); integrates health, nutrition, science, and environmental curriculum with library visits; and establishes replicable ideas and new curriculum.
Childhood obesity is still rising in prevalence in Howard County, with 16.4 percent of children, ages 2-4 living in low-income households, classified as obese (2009 U.S. Dept. of Agriculture-Food Environment Atlas). Healthy eating and regular physical activity can lower the risk of becoming obese. The Library’s mission is to provide education for all ages. The Enchanted Garden provides a creative and unique outdoor learning space to emphasize health and nutrition education, healthy hands-on activities, and connections for families interested in improving their health in a natural environment.
Located at the busiest branch of HCLS (more than 800,000 visitors anticipated in FY12), this garden will reach a large portion of the community, and serve as a trusted source for knowledge, provide a natural space for hands-on educational and healthy activities, and nurture community support that ensures sustainability and success. The Enchanted Garden fosters increased collaboration with experts in the fields of nutrition, environmental and science education, and health to develop innovative curriculum.
The Enchanted Garden features 1) environmental sustainability design, as part of Chesapeake Bay Watershed and to minimize storm water runoff, including a rain garden, bioswale, rain barrels, permeable surfaces, and native plants; 2) ADA accessible raised beds and pathway materials; 3) native plants with botanical signs (a field guide will educate about native plants' benefits to environment and wildlife); 4) classes focusing on health, nutrition, science, and environmental education; 5) demonstration gardening area, which includes a composting demonstration area, fruits (blueberries, blackberries and raspberries), vegetables and herbs in seven raised beds with the following themes: Multisensory Garden, Herbal Apothecary Garden, Peter Rabbit Patch, Stir Fry Garden, White House Kitchen Garden, Community Garden vegetables, and Pizza Garden (in the shape of an actual pizza); 6) water features including a pond, stream, and heron sculpture fountain; 7) patio for events, classes, and seating at tables and benches; and 8) fundraising for an Enchanted Garden maintenance fund through engraved pavers on the patio and handprint tiles for youth inside two entrance walls.
Art sculptures in the Enchanted Garden include frogs donated by Friends of Howard County Library, a child statue donated by a garden club, and an Enchanted Forest figure donated by a local agritourism organization.
Scheduled to open in May 2012, the Enchanted Garden aims to: 1) address factors that contribute to childhood obesity and deliver health and nutrition education; 2) increase class attendance by 250 customers each quarter (10 garden classes of 25 each); host semiannual meetings of the Garden Advisory Panel and Educational Curriculum Committee to plan strategies for maintaining the garden mission and to develop and implement new classes and events; 3) develop two new classes (or series of classes) for the garden annually; 4) host volunteer work days that offer healthy family activities two to four times a year for tasks such as preparing the raised planting beds, and seasonal clean up tasks; 5) survey parents of students to assess satisfaction with Enchanted Garden classes, and changes to behaviors as a result of what was learned during classes; 6) using an after-school gardening club or team of volunteers, harvest food each week for donation to the Maryland Food Bank.
The Enchanted Garden will heighten HCLS' Miller Branch reputation as a destination library.