Programs for Kids

Nature Camp

It’s that time of year again to register for Nature Camp!  Children ages 6-12 are eligible to join camp to discover the world of science around us.  Lunch and snacks are included!

Our teaching garden has been full of activity the past few summers. We have experienced teaching docents and college student interns who have worked in our garden daily. They are involved in learning about edible and native plants, designing gardens, and developing school curriculum. Our Nature Discovery Camp is a part of all this activity, so students who attend can absorb the energy and the knowledge from this talented group of people. This program is part of our commitment to design and install teaching gardens in over 9 public schools over the course of the next year. Proceeds from our summer program go directly to our non-profit organization, the California Native Garden Foundation, helping to make our beneficial program a reality in our public schools

We have done a number of great activities, like harvest food, prepare recipes, gaze at really small things, play with some wriggly creatures, talk about how cities of the future will work, and generally have a lot of fun.

Nature Camp Schedule:

Monday- Friday

8 am Early Drop off (Additional charge of $25)

9 am to 3:30 pm – full day classes

5 pm latest Extended care (Additional charge of $25)

Register Here – Click on dates

  • 4 Sequential Weeks ($700)
  • Drop In (any Drop in Day that is not taught by Ryan Taylor, which are listed below)
  • July 19th Drop In  Plant Day. We’ll talk about useful (and safe for kids) wild edible and medicinal plants. Many of the plants will be accompanied by games or Native American stories.
  • August 2nd Drop In Tracking Day. I’ll be creating interactive tracks through out the garden for the kids and I to investigate and “read a story” from.
  • August 3rd Drop In Buzz About Bees (Kendal’s Bees).
  • August 7th Drop In  Skills Day. We’ll be working various primitive based skills (skill-types will be determined by what wild plants are most available and abundant during that time)
  • August 11th Drop In Primitive Fire-Making Day. We’ll learn about fire safety, kids will get “dirt-time” in spinning Bow-Drills and Hand-Drills, and we’ll make a primitive fire together as a class.
  • Week 1 June 26 – June 30 ($180)
  • Week 2 July 3 – July 7 ($180)
  • Week 3 July 10 – July 14 ($180)
  • Week 4 July 17 – July 21 ($180)
  • Week 5 July 24 – July 28 ($180)
  • Week 6 July 31 – August 4 ($180)
  • Week 7 August 7 – August 11 ($180)

Class Field Trips

As the years have gone by, our Teaching garden called ELSEE keeps growing and keeps becoming more beautiful. It started to look a lot different than any other property in our neighborhood. Now folks know if you’re looking for nature in the city, it thrives here!

Lots of people come to visit our gardens,  About 8000 people each year. We have class field trips, summer and after school nature campers, pizza lovers, coffee drinkers,birthday celebrators, customers who buy native plants or drought tolerant food plants. We have teachers and parents, urban farmers, university professors, ecologists, botanists, Aquaponics engineers, high school classes and college interns. We have soil scientists, composters, composers, keepers of chickens, artists and musicians, bicyclists, politicians and people who work for them. We have heads of non profits, people who go on corporate retreats. We even have visitors from other places like Africa or Toyko or France who want to build a garden like ours in their country.

In fact, our gardens at Race St in central SAN Jose are so special, they are unique in the entire county of Santa Clara. Why? Because every day we can show over 200 ways we are using our land to sequester more carbon, promote biodiversity and teach our children how our planet functions so efficiently, always renewing itself and constantly reusing all its waste, saving its water, reusing it and providing food for all creatures who call Earth home.

In the meantime, come by with your school class and participate in a hands on, project based lesson, tour our gardens and have a pizza party. Your students can build something, grow something, eat good food, listen to an expert, harvest food, prepare it, stop by our nursery,and sit in the sun with their buds!

Moms and Dad’s can book a birthday party, schedule a corporate retreat, buy some veggies from our Aquaponics farm, buy some milkweed plants, hire us to help you remove your lawn, or ask us to help you identify a bug or a plant you can’t or just stop by and watch the fish or chickens. They’ll be happy to see you!

Educational Design Grants

We are a state wide organization. In 2007, UCPress published Designing California Native Gardens:The Plant Community Approach to Artful, Ecological Gardens. After my book was published, I traveled around California, giving book talks. These connections helped provide a spring board to launch our garden grant program. Since we began, CNGF has awarded nearly 85 garden design grants to schools and non-profits in California.

Our program has expanded to include lesson plans.  We encourage schools that are awarded grants to select lesson plans that work with our garden design programs. We provide a list of sources as well as ones we have developed for our Flagship ELSEE lab in SAN Jose.

If our grantee school is located near a community college or university, we encourage them to reach out to local students who may be interested in becoming environmental education teaching docents at their new school gardens.Our intent is to form a collaboration with each grant recipient and develop a coalition of community partners. Together, we are building a long term stewardship plan to perpetuate the garden education program at each of our grantee’s schools.

We work with each school to design an ELSEE teaching model, embracing a cultural change that has its roots in the transformation of an under utilized school property to an ELSEE garden classroom!

We strive to build our garden program from the ground up by creating passionate engagement with a group of core volunteers at each school. This process allows each individual volunteer to gain ownership in the transformation. First as individuals, who are supported by a cohesive team,they are able to make a personal commitment to the long term stewardship of the garden classroom. We have created a presentation called The Healthy Land Use Model to engage the local as well as national businesses that serve each school community. Our “Circle the wagons” approach to implementing educational and cultural change in the community begins with our core team, expands to include their business partners and this “vigor of change” is centered in the transformation of the public land around the school.

Our community of partners include San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, San Francisco City College, UCDavis, Foothill College, Merritt College and Cabrillo College, UCSC and Stanford.

Each Time We Award a Garden Grant

We hope our grantee schools will establish a link with their local colleges whose students serve internships in their chosen fields. Such majors as Environmental science, landscape architecture, plant science, nutrition,sustainable development, international agriculture and education majors make be seeking community centered intern positions.

Participating interns can be divided into teams.

Lesson plans, prop kits and docent teachers, community outreach, social media, gardening and propagation, workshops and events, etc.

Here at our ELSEE teaching garden, each team of interns is mentored by CNGF volunteers and their university professors who have expertise in their teams discipline. Our core group of volunteer leaders enables our interns to set and meet their goals during their internship program. 

Our partners include Sec. of California Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross, Whole Kids Foundation,

Health Trust, The City of San Jose, The Santa Clara Valley Water District, The Audubon Society, Santa Clara University, SAN Jose State University, UCSC and Stanford.

The Children’s Discovery Museum, CREECH, The Living Classroom, St. Leo the Great Catholic School, St. Andrews Episcopal School, California Landscape Contractor’s Association, The Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County, our many partner schools, non-profit grant recipients, and many local and regional businesses. We strive to work with our grantee schools to assist and help them develop a set of community partners with their ELSEE garden project while we continue to strengthen our existing partnerships.

Garden Rentals

The ELSEE garden is available for kids and adult birthday parties, corp team building events, wedding and anniversary parties, and pop up events for local community groups.

We can accommodate up to 100 guests. 

We have kitchen facilities and a wood fired Italian pizza. Outdoor dining, guest chefs, music, performers, well maintained native gardens and 26 different garden venues help educate and entertain each guest.

Contact to help you plan your event. Plan a tour of our gardens to see what you can imagine for your guests!

We’ll help you create that magical experience in the gardens!