Cornell Botanic Gardens Garden Ambassadors are excited to announce the launch of Garden Stories! This project showcases the unique experiences and perspectives of Cornell staff, faculty, and students who are connected to the gardens.
The Garden Ambassadors are a student-led team who work with community, university, and Botanic Gardens stakeholders to create education and outreach-focused programs that carry out the gardens’ mission. The Garden Ambassadors are part of Cornell Botanic Gardens’ Learning by Leading program, which focuses on cultivating a new generation of environmental leaders through stewardship, co-creation, and sense of place, while empowering these new learners and leaders with mentoring and experience.
Garden Stories was first thought of when everything at Cornell went online in Spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, the ambassadors have spent a lot of time reflecting on the role of Cornell Botanic Gardens in visitors’ lives as a place to relax, do work, build relationships, and explore the joys of nature. With a lot of Cornell’s operations, including the gardens’, moving online at that time, the Garden Ambassadors wanted to foster the connections that Cornell community members have to the gardens, special scenic spots within it, and to each other.
“We hope that these stories will inspire visitors to reflect on the good times they have had in the gardens and through this be inspired to spend more time there. Then they can encourage others to do this as well, and the love that the Botanic Gardens gives to people can spread. Love and connection are more important than ever right now” says Brenna Tosh ‘24, a Garden Ambassador Team Member.
As an outdoor space and a place of beauty, the gardens have the potential to connect people and foster community while supporting physical distancing and other health and safety protocols.
After all, “the Botanic Gardens is an incredible place, and part of what makes it that are the people who are here, volunteer here, and visit us here,” said Jeannie Yamazaki ’21, one of the Garden Ambassador Co-Leads. “While we missed standing in the gardens and being physically in it, we also found that we were missing the people.” So, the Stories were envisioned as a way to seek out and share some of the beautiful connections developed around the gardens, especially in these challenging times.
Cornell Botanic Gardens covers a lot of ground around Cornell and the Ithaca area, and it allows people of all walks of life to encounter nature in their own ways. Whether that be taking an exploratory hike down the Cascadilla Gorge trail with friends, moseying through the Robison Herb Garden next to the Nevin Welcome Center, admiring the beauty of the Mundy Wildflower Garden, or enjoying any space in the gardens, arboretum, or natural areas, peoples’ experiences are abundant and ripe for the sharing.
The process of creating a Garden Story includes interviewing people who are interested in sharing their own experiences, memorable stories, and perspectives connected to being in the gardens. The goal is to remain truthful to the experiences and revelations of the interviewees, and convey as clearly as possible the appeal and impact of the gardens. Interviewees can share whatever depth of story or emotion they wish to convey, and the Garden Ambassador team then puts together a draft of their story to be reviewed by the contributor and ultimately published on the Cornell Botanic Gardens’ website.
By sharing these stories broadly, the hope is to highlight the role of the Botanic Gardens in promoting growth, inspiration, and connection for the Cornell community.
This impact can take many forms. In the first Story, we learn how Cornell Botanic Gardens fostered a deep connection between one of its staff members and a special tree. Kevin Moss, student and public engagement coordinator, explains the depths of connection he feels to the gardens by recounting an occasion several years ago of a beloved river birch that had to be removed.
Another meaningful Story comes from Teresa Craighead, who shares the effect the gardens have had on her personal growth as someone starting with no gardening experience and seeking a new nurturing role in her life, to becoming a Master Gardener and tour leader for the gardens.
Future Garden Stories will feature the voices of students, ranging from a first-year undergraduate to those in student clubs, and who find themselves captivated by the magic of the gardens. Cornell staff and community members will also be highlighted!
Stories will be posted monthly to the Cornell Botanic Gardens website on the Garden Stories page.
You can also find out more about the Garden Ambassadors on the Botanic Gardens’ website.
Happy reading and reflecting!
Jeannie Yamazaki ‘21, co-lead of the Cornell Botanic Garden Ambassadors, talks to the Cornell Daily sun about the peace and togetherness afforded by the gardens’ accessible outdoor spaces.