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Farmer Sheldon welcomed the children to Wonderland Garden by sharing the story about how he becomes a farmer then offered an introduction to the history and goals of the garden.

Zenobia Barlow suggests, ‘Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living.”

The children learned the walking paths are made from 6,000 recycled tires that were saved from being placed in a landfill. The garden benches are made from recycled plastic bags and milk jugs. The stacked stone walls have been built out of 100,000 lbs. of county sidewalks that were dug up. Sheldon impresses the children with the need to reuse, reduce and recycle.

When asked ‘What kind of birds can you name?’, the children were able to offer many examples from Robins and Bluebirds to Eagles, the Phoenix and even Georgia’s own state bird, the Brown Thrasher. Everyone helped to fill the bird feeders while investigating how birdseed has a great variety of shapes, colors and textures. We also all learned how important it is to be good stewards toward the other creatures living in our environment.

After filling some of the bird feeders with sunflower seed, Sheldon brought some sunflower heads from the past season to show the children just where sunflower seeds come from. Each child plucked several seeds from the flower head then got busy planting them in the garden.

“If I were a flower…I would be a sunflower, To always follow the sun, Turn my back to darkness, Stand proud, tall and straight even with my head full of seeds.” Pam Stewart

The children put so much thoughtful attention into this planting activity. Even though it was the first time for many of these kiddos to plant seeds they did not hesitate digging into the soil to find the perfect spot.

Say something pretty

After a lesson about how a seed needs moisture to germinate and how roots absorb water to make the top of the plant grow, the kids filled their watering cans with water captured in a rain barrel to water in their planted seeds and surrounding flowers. Watering the garden was definitely a favorite task.

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There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: one is roots, the other is wings. –Hodding Carter Jr.

I love how quiet this picture is, everyone is so busy tending to their business. There is no arguing, boredom, apathy or inattentiveness. Garden’s are such a peaceful place to be! The children did such a great job pulling weeds in the vegetable garden.

The weeds were gathered into these buckets then carried to the compost pile.

These friends enjoyed learning how composting is natures way of recycling. Compost has energy inside of it that soil will absorb to become more nutrient rich. When Farmer Sheldon asked, “What can we add to the compost pile?”, the children had many accurate recommendations from banana peels, leaves, and coffee grounds to egg shells and of course weeds.

After filling their buckets with a few scoops of compost, Sheldon pours water into each bucket to make compost tea.

Stirring and mixing compost, not exactly making mud pies but pretty close and just as much fun!

Do you see something magical happening in this picture? COOPERATION!!! It is amazing how naturally children will work together when they are given an opportunity and the right tools! Here they are applying compost tea to the vegetable’s they planted the previous week.

It was a surprise to see so many hawks circling above the farm on our last day.

Sheldon urged the children to consider and determine, who exactly had eaten all of his okra plants!  With hoof tracks present in the soil and leaves chewed too high off the ground for a bunny rabbit to reach, the children finally concluded the culprit must be a deer. The boys eyes grew wider and wider as they considered a deer to be within the vicinity. They begged to be allowed to go search the woods to find him!

Today, a third grade honors student…Tomorrow, an Environmentalist who recycle’s at home, a Congresswomen who raises awareness for conservation efforts,  a Farmer who feeds her community, a Mother who teaches her children how to plant sunflowers, an Engineer who designs using sustainable materials or a Teacher who guides others into wonder and knowledge of our natural world.

Farmer Sheldon Fleming, the children of Inspiring Kids Academy and myself, Keren King, sharing our last moments in the garden together.


The Lyon Farm is named for the family that owned it from 1827 to 2003. Sheldon Fleming of Wonderland Gardens has led the efforts to rehabilitate the farm working with DeKalb’s Natural Resources Management office to create a “living farm” where visitors can see a restored 1930s cotton farm. Ranger Robby Astrove from the adjoining Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve joined us for a day in the garden.

Farmer Sheldon shares samples of a variety of herbs to smell and taste. Mint leaves are highly favored among the children, while many funny faces were made as a reaction to the pungent aroma of Rosemary.

Enjoying a handful of mint and thyme, this little girl learned, ‘Herbs and spices are used to flavor food as well as for making medicine.’

Sheldon leads a group of children from Inspiring Kids Academy down the garden row for a lesson in picking tomatoes.

As the children enjoyed eating the cherry tomatoes they picked, we talked about all the different meals that can be made out of tomatoes. Spagetti sauce, ketchup, pizza sauce and salsa are among the children’s favorite foods.

The children were thrilled to plant their own vegetable plants. Eggplant, squash, tomatoes and watermelons were all included in the garden. Sheldon assisted the careful effort of the children by instructing them how deep to dig their hole.

The great care and instinctual gentleness offered by the children as they planted was beautiful and inspiring.

“Children the world over have a right to a childhood filled with beauty, joy, adventure, and companionship. They will grow toward ecological literacy if the soil they are nurtured in is rich with experience, love, and good examples.” -Alan Dyer, “A Sense of Adventure”

Back to the children’s favorite activity! Watering!

The children were delighted as Sheldon gave them all their very own Zinnia flower to take home.

Absolutely precious!!!


Once upon a drizzly morning at Wonderland Garden, the Morning Glories greeted the children on their way to visit the butterflies.

Farmer Sheldon led the children’s imaginations through a maze of tunnels built by bugs underground to learn how these same passages carry rainwater and nutrients into the root system of plants.

These boys are closing their eyes to help them imagine what it would be like to be George Washington Carver. ‘Imagine what kind of ideas you would have if you were an Inventor’, ‘Imagine how working with plants make you feel’, ‘Imagine how you could invent things that can help other people.’

The children take turns filling up the bird feeders with more seed. Wow! Birds sure do eat a lot!

This curious group watches carefully to see how the many different kinds of butterflies, moths and bugs pollinate the flowers on the Lantana bush.

Over 3000 species of butterflies and moths have been recorded in Georgia. You can often find members of the Lepidoptera order visiting flowers, rotting fruit, sap on a tree or wet soil.

After everyone had their turn finding insects and watching the butterflies, we worked on a fun art project, making patterned bark impressions on paper.

The Chinese Elm tree is also known as the Lacebark Elm for its delicately patterned surface.

These girls had a great time finding just the right spot on the tree to work on their pictures.

Bravo! Well done, girls!


Sheldon calls the children’s attention to the bird activity at the same feeders the kids filled with birdseed the previous week.

Shhh!…slowly…slowly creeping closer to the feeders as to not scare the birds away.

Good Morning Birds! The children practiced being still and quiet  while observing nature. We learned that most birds have a favorite type of seed they prefer to eat.

These girls returned to water the Sunflower seeds they had planted the previous week.

After watering the garden, it’s up to the pavilion for the next activity.

‘What does an explorer do?’, Farmer Sheldon asks. The children replied, ‘looks for things’, ‘use their senses’, ‘experiments’, and ‘discovers things’. Farmer Sheldon encourages them to use their senses to help find matches for all of these items on a scavenger hunt.

Let the gardening games begin! Working in small groups , the children have one bucket full of the items they are trying to find matches for and another empty bucket to gather the natural treasures they find. Fruit from a Pear tree, a Gingko leaf, a stem of Rosemary, the bark from a River Birch tree, acorns, and a Magnolia leaf, inspire the children to explore the garden.
‘I spy with my little eye, a leaf that is green on one side and brown on the other!’ The girls discover one of their items and learn to identify it as a Magnolia leaf.

A Gingko leaf found on the scavenger hunt. ‘Did you know a Gingko tree is one of the oldest trees? They have found many fossils of this tree indicating the Gingko and the Dinosaurs lived together.”


Farmer Sheldon welcomed the children to Wonderland Garden by sharing the story about how he became a farmer then offered an introduction to the history and goals of the garden. 
“Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature.  Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually  into sustainable patterns of living.” Zenobia Barlow

The children learn the walking paths are made from 6,000 recycled tires that were saved from being placed in a landfill. The garden benches are made from recycled plastic bags and milk jugs. The stacked stone walls have been built out of 100,000 lbs. of county sidewalks that were dug up. Sheldon impresses the children with the need to reuse, reduce and recycle.

When asked, ‘What kind of birds can you name?’, the children were able to offer many examples from Robins and Bluebirds to Eagles, the Phoenix and Georgia’s own state bird, the Brown Thrasher. Everyone helped fill the bird feeders while becoming familiar with the great variety of shapes, colors, and textures of the birdseed. We all learned how important it is to be good stewards toward the other creatures living in our environment.

After filling some of the bird feeders with sunflower seed, Sheldon brought some sunflower heads from the past season to show the children just where sunflower seeds come from. The children each plucked several seeds from the flower head then got busy planting them in the garden.

Sunflower seeds ready to be planted.”If I were a flower…I would be a sunflower, To always follow the sun, Turn my back to darkness, Stand proud, tall and straight even with my head full of seeds.” Pam Stewart

The children put so much thoughtful attention into this planting activity. Even though it was the first time for many of these kiddos to plant seeds they did not hesitate digging into the soil to find the perfect spot.

After a lesson about  how a seed needs moisture to germinate and how roots absorb water to make the top of the plant grow, The kids filled their watering cans with water captured in a rain barrel to water in their planted seeds and surrounding flowers. Watering the garden was definitely a favorite task among the kids.