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    Join us at NCYGS 2018 for an unprecedented range of speakers

    2018 Speakers

    Meet our NCYGS 2018 speakers

    General Session Keynote: Alizé Carrère

    Thursday, July 12 9:00 - 10:00am

    Alizé Carrère is a National Geographic Explorer researching and documenting climate change adaptation in practice.  Raised in a treehouse in Ithaca, her childhood primed her for a unique perspective on what it means to innovate and adapt in response to environmental change.  While pursuing an advanced degree in Bioresource Engineering from McGill University, Alizé spent time in the Middle East working on water resource management and electronic waste between Israel and Palestine.  In 2012, Alizé received support from National Geographic to conduct research in Madagascar, where she spent several months uncovering an unlikely agricultural adaptation in response to severe deforestation.  Learning of farmers who were turning erosional gullies into fertile pockets of farmland, her work evolved into a greater story of creativity and resourcefulness amongst the oft-repeated narrative of climate doom.

    With the persistence of climate change, people across the world are experimenting daily with different adaptive methods on the ground.  At a time when doomsday narratives dominate the current climate conversation, adaptation plays an increasingly vital role for both its practical application and as a hopeful reminder of our resilience as a species.  With continued support from National Geographic, Alizé has been documenting case studies in places such as Madagascar, Bangladesh, India, Norway, and the United States to create a web series that reveals human ingenuity and resourcefulness in the face of environmental adversity.  Alizé will share her experiences from the field looking at these unique examples of human adaptation, reminding us of the most important trait that has allowed for our continued survival on earth.


    General Session Panel Discussion: Equitable Access to the Garden

    Saturday, July 14 8:45 - 9:45 a.m.

    How can you ensure that all young people have equitable access to your garden space?  Are there barriers within your garden that might prevent a kid from a low-income community from engaging with and enjoying the space?  How about a child with a physical disability or emotional challenges?  How about a student whose first language is not English?  Looking at this issue through different lenses, our panelists will discuss their work in overcoming barriers and implementing strategies to increase equitable access and make the garden a truly inclusive place for joyful and meaningful learning.

    Duron Chavis
    Community Engagement Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

    Duron Chavis, Community Engagement Coordinator for Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, establishes innovative and dynamic programs around the topics of urban agriculture and food security in a culturally relevant way. Duron is chiefly responsible for the Garden’s outreach and relationship-building across a diverse community, expressly to foster greater collaboration and facilitate neighborhood-based urban greening and beautiful place-making initiatives.  In 2009 Chavis launched the Richmond Noir Market, a Saturday pop up farmer’s market targeting low income communities. In 2012 he developed McDonough Community Garden and began transforming green spaces throughout the Richmond Region into urban gardens, farms, orchards and vineyards. Duron has served on numerous public advisory councils including the Food Policy Task Force as well as Anti-Poverty Task force for the City of Richmond. He participated as a member of the inaugural Citizen’s Advisory Board for the Office of Community Wealth Building.  


    Cindy Tyler, PLA
    Principal, Terra Design Studios

    Cindy Tyler is the founding principal of Terra Design Studios, a boutique landscape architecture firm in Pittsburgh, PA that focuses on connecting children and their caregivers to their green world. She is a recognized leader among her peers for her family garden designs and has led the development of more than 20 family gardens in 10 states, including 15 that are built or under construction. In 2018, two family gardens of note opened their gates to families in Columbus and San Antonio - The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and the Family Adventure Garden at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Cindy has been a proud supporter of the National Children’s and Youth Gardening Symposium for two decades, and she is as eager to share her working knowledge of how thoughtful site planning can diversify audiences.


    Rebecca Lemos-Otero
    Co-founder and Executive Director, City Blossoms

    Twenty years ago Rebecca was asked if she would like to do a small gardening project with a group of kids in her local community center in Washington, DC. From that point on she grew to see urban gardening as a way to combine her interests in art, community development, food and everything green. In 2008, Rebecca co-founded City Blossoms an organization that fosters healthy communities through innovative, community-engaging programming and green spaces.  City Blossoms has designed, developed, collaborated on, and provided programming or trainings for over 100 projects throughout Washington, DC and nationwide. Through their work with hundreds of community-based organizations, neighborhood groups and schools, they serve all people, with a particular focus on low-income communities and Latino, African-American, and immigrant youth. They work with neighborhoods in which children and youth may not otherwise have access to green space.



    Community Forum: The Garden as Haven

    Thursday, July 12 5:00 - 6:30pm

    ​In turbulent times, the garden can be a haven for finding resilience and renewal.  With increasing frequency, outside stressors, including extreme weather events, gun violence, and myriad other challenges, are entering youth learning environments across the nation, making mental health and stress reduction a critical priority for educators, students, and families.  This forum, which will be Livestreamed on the Web, will be an opportunity for candid and thoughtful conversation about the changing realities of the educational environment and the ways garden spaces can be used not only to teach, but to lessen anxiety, develop a sense of optimism, and build a more resilient community.

    Marsha Guenzler-Stevens

    Marsha Guenzler-Stevens serves as the director of the Adele H. Stamp Union at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park, ensuring that every student's time at college is enriched by the many activities, clubs, and organizations the campus has to offer.  In 2001, in the aftermath of 9/11 and a deadly tornado that ripped through campus, Dr. Guenzler-Stevens led the University's effort to construct a large Garden of Reflection and Remembrance.  The garden continues to inspire campus and broader community members to reflect and renew.

    Greg Eells

    Greg Eells is the Director of Counseling and Psychological Services for Cornell Health, providing leadership for all campus mental health services. In his TED Talk entitled Cultivating Resiliency, he states that we all strive toward a life full of meaning but when we face the inevitable obstacle, it's how we bounce back that matters. This "bounce" is also defined as resilience. Campus therapists under direction from Eells give Nature Rx@Cornell prescription cards. They have recommended "dosages" of outdoor time, from once to seven times a week.

    Kyle Jeter

    Kyle Jeter, science teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, spearheaded the efforts that resulted in Marjory's Garden, a school garden intended to provide hands-on STEAM learning opportunities, promote conservation, and honor the legacy of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas.  An early believer in the "higher purpose" of the garden, Kyle witnessed the staff and students embrace Marjory's Garden as a space for reflection and healing in the wake of a tragedy.


    Friday, July 13 1:00-2:00pm

    To honor and celebrate Cornell’s founding ideology, ‘Any person, any study,’ we've assembled a group of University-based individuals to 'talk shop' with over lunch.

    Connecting with Nature Through Urban Trees and Green Space

    Jeanne Grace, Ithaca City Forester

    Get the inside scoop on what drives tree management decisions, why urban forests are important, and how Ithaca’s urban canopy stacks up against other cities. As forester, Jeanne interacts with tree lovers and tree skeptics on issues related to nature in the city and our connection to it on a daily basis.


    Grow Curiosity

    Alexa Maille, NYS 4-H Youth Development STEM Specialist
    Susan Hoskins, 4-H Geospatial Science Lead, Senior Extension Associate Institute for Resource Information Sciences

    How can we nurture a young person's natural curiosity and provide them opportunities to understand the world through STEM? Let's explore how learning in the garden can help youth master STEM concepts and skills, develop STEM identities, and use their STEM skills for positive change in their communities.


    Lasting Attitudes toward Nature: When and How Are They Formed?

    Don Rakow, Associate Professor Section of Horticulture School of Integrative Plant Science, Fellow, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
    Naomi Sachs, PhD, ASLA, EDAC, Postdoctoral Associate, Cornell University Department of Design and Environmental Analysis

    Over the past year, Don and Naomi have been studying undergraduate students’ attitudes toward nature- during their middle childhood years and now as undergraduates.  By improving our understanding of when attitudes toward nature are formed and how they relate to attitudes and behavior during college years, we’re hoping that more targeted and sensitive nature-based therapies can be developed for students dealing with various mental and physical conditions.


    Social-Emotional Learning and Wellness

    Nigel Gannon, NYS 4-H Program Specialist

    Let's dig into the hot topic of social-emotional wellness!  We'll discuss the clear benefits of supporting social-emotional wellness in youth and explore one national model of social-emotional learning while focusing on key aspects of self-awareness and identity development.


    Nature Play Design

    Rusty Keeler, Artist, Designer, Author EarthPlay

    Join Rusty in discussing the design and creation of community-built natural play spaces. How can we best support play in the built environments (including adventurous, risky play!)?


    Intersection of History & Innovation in Local Food Systems

    Jamila Walida-Simon, NYS 4-H Citizenship and Civic Engagement Specialist

    Come to the communal table with Jamila to talk shop about the history of food production and distribution.  We can look to history in order to find unique ways to position our innovations for our local food systems.


    Cultivating Resiliency, Prescribing Nature

    Greg Eells, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services

    Dr. Greg Eells will lead a conversation around the concept of resilience - how we can bounce back when we are confronted with difficulties. Many of us have this ability but can learn news ways of responding to life’s challenges.


    The Uncommon Crow: the Hidden Life of a Familiar Bird

    Kevin McGowan, Cornell Lab of Ornithology Instructor

    Crows have a lot going on, and they’re in everyone’s backyard. They have a social system that is a lot like our own, displaying intelligence, adaptability, sociability, and caring, with strong family values and lifelong bonds. Hear Kevin McGowan's unique perspective on the species, formulated over 30 years of research.


    Bumble bees, sweat bees, digger bees, leafcutter bees, carpenter bees, cellophane bees: There are so many ways to be a bee!

    Maria van Dyke, M.S., Research & Outreach, Native Bee Systematics and Ecology Lab, Department of Entomology, Cornell University

    Wild native bees are humble mysterious creatures!  Join Maria van Dyke to discuss bee diversity and the intriguing methods bee species use to forage, build nests, mate and reproduce. Maria will share her advice for creating habitat for these overlooked hymenoptera.