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Literacy Garden helps children explore stories, connect with nature
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McEver Arts Academy para-professional April Nieves reads to kindergarten students from the school at the Literacy Gardens at Gardens on Green next to the Hall County School District Office Thursday, May 10, 2018 to learn about the environment, hear stories, take part in different activities and plant seeds to take home. - photo by Scott Rogers

As cars head down Green Street, drivers often are unaware of all that’s around them. The path toward downtown includes Mellow Mushroom, the Spa on Green Street and the Post Office. Most don’t notice the little sign that sits in front of the Hall County Central Office building that reads “Gardens on Green.”

On one side of the building is the Garden of Winners; on the other, the newest garden, created just over a year ago, is the Literacy Garden. Kathy Lovett, founder of Gardens on Green, said she has been host to “hundreds and hundreds” of children from Hall County schools who use the Literacy Garden to create a hands-on learning experience.

Gardens on Green

Where: 711 Green St., Gainesville

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday


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“I feel so strongly that children need to experience nature for their good mental, physical and emotional well-being. And they need to understand the interdependence of all life,” Lovett said. “And we want them to have fun. Children should have fun. And in the process of fun, they learn new things.”

The Literacy Garden is open to the public whenever central office is open, and elementary schools typically take field trips there. As children go through the front gate with the garden’s motto, “Read. Discover. Grow.” adorned on an arch above their heads, they see characters from books they have read and grown to love, along with plants, picnic tables and a reading arbor.

Characters from stories like “Peter Rabbit,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” around the garden help students understand while bringing the pages to life. 

One class visiting Thursday, May 10, was Sonja Carter’s kindergarten students from McEver Arts Academy.

“For some kids, they don’t have many experiences,” said Carter, a kindergarten teacher for 24 years. “To bring them to a garden like this and act out a story or plant seeds — we do that in the classroom, but to come to the garden and see things in action, I think it’s more beneficial for them. We’ve read those stories in the classroom and then we get to come and they see it. They’re super excited.”

The students went around the garden in groups to different stations. They learned about seeds and how they grow at one station and were able to plant some to take home. They learned new songs while sitting on a hill that was built to represent the story of “Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill.” They had stories read to them at another station and then got to act out “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” by walking across a bridge.

There also were plenty of books to read from the bookshelf. Many students grabbed books and sat on a stump under the shade of a tree in the garden to look through them.

“Being a teacher, I’ve always had a love to be around kids. And now being retired, I still love being around them and seeing their faces,” said Dinah Wallace, who taught at North Hall Middle and was volunteering to help for the day. “It’s just amazing and it’s giving back to the community.”