The Not-So-Secret Garden

the not so secret garden

You had a sneak peek here…today we’ll be sharing the sunshine-filled details of our Secret Garden event, which took place on the gorgeous grounds of Morven Museum & Garden!

Morven Museum & Garden is a historical landmark located in Princeton, New Jersey. It is the former Governor’s Mansion and, for more than 250 years, has been the home of five New Jersey governors and Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Morven’s house, outbuildings, grounds, and new Stockton Education Center are absolutely beautiful. So when they offered their gardens for a collaboration, we jumped at the chance.

Redbud-and-Tulip-poplar-(rt)-Morven_photo by Richard Speedy

Image courtesy of Morven Museum & Garden. Photo by Richard Speedy

Katie and I have been wanting to do a Secret Garden event for ages, and we especially wanted to focus on the novel’s themes of discovery, exploration, playfulness, and interaction with the the natural world. And Morven’s gardens are so beautiful…

exploring the gardenIn the Secret Garden, the 3 children build a private world within their walled garden, and we wanted to replicate that feeling. We found these terrific 39.5″ x 39.5″ x 43.5″ canvas play tents on Amazon (a bit pricey at $65 a pop, but they will be used for other events, so win!):

play tentsThe tents were a HUGE hit, and were in constant use all day long. They were light enough for kids to move around, so there were a number of interesting configurations throughout the day (my favorite being a long tent tunnel). Not far from the tents were wood slice stepping stones, which Princeton University’s Grounds & Maintenance was kind enough to donate…

stepping slicesWe pulled aside 2 of the larger wood slices to make tic tac toe boards. Use a permanent marker or paint to draw the board, and 2 different color rocks for the pieces.

wood slice tic tac toeIn addition to tic tac toe, we had a natural wood ring toss for the younger kids, and this cool Finnish game called Mölkky for older kids…

molkkyYou will find a full description of Mölkky here. But basically, it’s a game that involves some semi-skilled tossing and a little basic math. It’s super chill, super fun, and perfect for families. It also won Green Toy of the Year Award in 2015! A set costs $50 on Amazon, but again, we now have it for future events.

Meanwhile, on the slate patio near Morven’s garden fountain, there was natural paint brush painting:

natural paintbrushesThe brushes are 10″ sticks (thanks again Princeton Grounds & Maintenance!) with various flowers and foliage attached to the ends with rubber bands. Kids dipped the brushes into bowls of water and experimented with the different patterns the brushes created on the slate patio.

If you do this activity at your event, however, have big buckets of water handy, not just bowls. We quickly learned that kids like to carry and move the bowls with them, which inevitably tip over. I had to do a lot of monitoring and refiling to keep the project going.

We also had a very, very popular bubble wand station! We bought three, 15 piece bubble sets with giant wands on Amazon for $8. Plus two, 64oz bottles of solution for $9. We should have bought more solution folks, because we ran out halfway through the event! We recommend one 64oz bottle of solution per hour, minimum.

floating bubble We ran 5 hands-on craft tables at the event as well: nature print bookmarks, paperclip robins, bean mosaics, racing caterpillars, and butterfly feeders.


1: NATURE PRINT PAPER

Nature print paper (sometimes also called sun print paper) is a staple of science classes everywhere. We bought our 5″ x 7″ sheets on Amazon (a pack of 40 sheets cost $11), but to stretch the budget, we cut each sheet into 1.5″ x 7″ strips that would later serve as  bookmarks. All you need are some garden clippings, tubs of water, and paper plates for carrying your creation while it fully dries. Helming the table was Hope, our teen tester, who also volunteers at Morven!

hope and the nature print tableThis photo was taken right before the event officially started. Hope was pretty much mobbed the rest of the day. TOTAL TROOPER.


2: PAPERCLIP ROBINS

paperclip robbinsA robin plays an integral part of introducing Mary to the secret garden, so we borrowed this craft from Family Fun magazine. All you need are a pair of paperclips, heavy weight paper, scissors, tape, and a hole punch. Voilà! Personal robin!


3: BEAN MOSAICS

For a longer, more focused event project, we offered bean mosaics similar to the one pictured above. We provided kids with 3″x3″ squares of poster board. Baby wipes are a good idea for cleaning up hands and work areas, and paper plates are also good for carrying around your creation as it’s drying.


4: RACING CATERPILLARS

 

Honestly, you have to see these things in action to really appreciate them. A bit of folding, a drinking straw, and this little caterpillar really races! We had 2 table top race tracks at the event, and the competition was fierce (but there was plenty of laughter too). If you’d like some folding instructions to display on your event tabletop, you’ll find those here.

caterpillar races


5: BUTTERFLY FEEDERS

champagne-glass-butterfly-feeder_croppedThis project was previously featured in a sneak peek post (which you will find here). But there’s an extra special event connection…Morven’s Head Horticulturist, Louise Senior, was tagging butterflies that day!

butterfly tanksLouise brought out a trio of tanks and monarchs in their various forms to lecture about life cycles and butterfly science. Then she tagged and released monarchs to the skies!

monarch caterpillarpupaehatched butterflies


AND FINALLY…

We did have ONE MORE event activity that day. In the book, Mary unearths the garden key that was buried by a grieving Archibald Craven. In the spirit of her life-changing discovery, we designed a key hunt. We hot glued 6 vintage keys to craft sticks and staked them throughout the garden grounds.

hidden keyEach key was assigned a rainbow color so kids would know when they found all 6. Once they reported their success at key hunt HQ, they were rewarded with a vintage mini key of their choice (and yes, we are STILL reusing those mini keys we bought bulk for this Sherlock Holmes escape room!). We had string handy, in case kids wanted to wear their keys home as necklaces.

The hidden key activity was not only related to the book, it was a great way to simple get out and explore the gardens, high and low, near and far…

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It was a glorious day, and we would like to sincerely thank Morven Museum & Gardens for opening their home to us. Their staff and volunteers were absolutely wonderful. A very special thanks to Curator of Education and Public Programs, Debra Lampert-Rudman, for being so enthusiastic, accommodating, and full of joy.

The BiblioFiles Presents: Tony DiTerlizzi

Tony DiTerlizzi - Photo credit "Jim Gipe photo / Pivot Media"Just posted! A webcast and podcast with multiple award winning, and New York Times bestselling, author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi.

For 20 years, DiTerlizzi has infused the children’s book world with his brilliant imagination, endless creativity, and considerable artistic talent. His first series, The Spiderwick Chronicles (created in collaboration with Holly Black), details the adventures of the three Grace children and their discoveries on the other-worldly estate inherited from their relative, Arthur Spiderwick. Their much-loved adventures resulted in a spin-off series, Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, several companion books, and a feature film.

DiTerlizzi’s second series, the Wondla trilogy, is an epic science fiction fantasy. It centers around human girl Eva Nine as she emerges into a world distantly removed from planet Earth – a world on the brink of an alien civil war and global reawakening. The books are illuminated with DiTerlizzi’ s gorgeous illustrations of air ships, alien species, battle scenes, and beautiful moments. It’s simply amazing.

In addition to his chapter books, DiTerlizzi has produced a number of picture books, including The Spider and the Fly, which won a Caldecott honor in 2003, The Story of Diva and Flea with Mo Willems, and The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight, with Lucasfilm. In 2018, the Norman Rockwell Museum hosted a 20 year retrospective on DiTerlizzi’s work titled “Never Abandon Imagination.” He has been featured in Time magazine, USA Today, and a guest on CNN, PBS, NPR, BBC, and The Today Show.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles interview


Tony DiTerlizzi photo by Jim Gipe Photo / Pivot Media

The BiblioFiles Presents: Kat Yeh

kat yehJust posted! A webcast and podcast with Kat Yeh, author of The Truth About Twinkie Pie, and The Way to Bea.

In The Truth About Twinkie Pie we meet GiGi, a middle school student who, thanks for the efforts of her big sister DiDi, has moved to a new town and is entering a fancy new prep school. GiGi and DiDi are orphans. However, as the story unfolds, we learn that nothing is quite what it seems, both in GiGi’s family, and in the lives of the friends she makes in school.

Yeh’s most recent chapter book, The Way to Bea, introduces us to Beatrix Lee. After a painful falling out with her best friends, Bea has decided to remain silent and invisible at school. But her mind and fingers can’t be quiet as she composes poetry and hides it in a special place in the woods. When someone begins leaving messages in response, Bea begins to understand that friendship, like life, can be complicated.

Yeh has a tremendous talent for characters, emotion, and capturing the tender, awkward, difficult and uplifting parts of discovering who you are. Her stories fold you in immediately, bringing you into a circle of friends, a fight between sisters, the rush of realizing someone likes you. There is such strength and authenticity to her prose. Yeh’s books are meant to be discovered, shared, thought about, and loved.

In addition to her chapter book, Yeh has also written picture books The Friend Ship, You’re Loveable to Me, and The Magic Brush: A Story of Love, Family, and Chinese Characters.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles interview