Skip links


Welcome to the Garden

What is Ithaca Children’s Garden?

Ithaca Children’s Garden is an award-winning, 3-acre public children’s garden designed for kids, enjoyed by all, and driven by a mission to connect children to nature to create a more beautiful, resilient and just world.

Connecting children to nature to create a more beautiful, resilient, and just world.

Our vision is that every child has the basic human right to play, learn, and grow outdoors, and develops a life-long relationship with the living world.

ICG has been honoring the whole child and fostering environmental stewardship since 1999. We believe the best way to do that is to get more children outside, with hands-on sensory experiences, having fun in the natural world. ICG is a place where kids can be kids and adults can feel good about it.

ICG was first organized in 1997 by Harriet Becker, Mary Alyce Kobler, and Monika Roth. They heard Jane Taylor of the Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden speak and were so inspired by the impact this children’s garden had, they decided that Ithaca’s children also needed a special place to explore and connect to nature designed especially for them.  In 1999, ICG earned its 501(c)3 non-profit status under the direction of Founding Director Meg Cole.  In 2004, a lease for 3 acres in Cass Park was secured with the City of Ithaca, and in 2005, Gaia the Turtle was built. From there the program, staff, volunteers, and Garden have grown. More than 500 community youth contributed ideas for the conceptual design, and countless youth have been involved in shaping its continued growth.

Each year ICG continues to expand the ways it meets the needs of the community while growing its regional and national impact.

Our Values

The Garden is deeply rooted in these 5 values

Child-Centered by employing playwork philosophy and practice and embracing the 4 core values of the Circle of Courage: independence, mastery, belonging, and generosity to foster positive youth development.
Inclusive, safe, and committed to becoming a MULTICULTURAL organization that challenges racist power structures.
Collaborative by partnering with community agencies, individuals, and other field leaders to develop synergies and build on collective strengths.
Innovative by continuous development, evaluation, learning, reflection and improvement in our work, bringing a spirit of positivity in all things.
Ecologically-Centered by practicing and demonstrating ecologically sensitive methods of land-care and people-care and interpreting the benefits of such practices to visitors and program participants.
Our Philosophy

Innovative Play at Work

Permaculture, playwork, and child-directed learning are cornerstones of our approach, along with a commitment to an inclusive environment that values and respects diversity of culture and identity. Extensive cross sector-collaborations help extend and deepen ICG’s impact.

Learn More
Why Play?

The Importance of Play in Nature

ICG has always seen outdoor immersion and adventure play as highly valuable. Researchers, childhood development experts, psychologists, educational professionals, and social activists are beginning to realize it too. Check out some of the empirical evidence supporting the benefits of unstructured play and outdoor time.

Learn More
Meet the people that help make ICG grow!

ICG Team Members

The Garden thrives with love and help from our team, Board of Directors, and dedicated committee members!

Meet our ICG team!


Erin M.

Development Director & Interim Executive Director

Erin returns to ICG with 13 years of nonprofit development and leadership experience, having served over a decade as ICG’s executive director. During her first tenure, Erin grew the organization from a one-person agency to a 10-person team and regional tourism destination serving 70,000+ visitors annually. Erin has served as the annual giving manager for a Kenya-based wildlife conservancy and is also CEO of Marteal Consulting, a company dedicated to supporting new nonprofit leaders and their organizations. Erin earned her Master’s in Public Garden Leadership from Cornell University. She was the recipient of the Cornell Dreer Award and has been recognized by the American Public Gardens Association as a leader in the field of public horticulture. Connecting children, families, and all people to nature is close to Erin’s heart. In her free time, Erin can be found salsa dancing, hiking, and thrift store shopping.

Email Erin

Robin Cochell

Operations Manager

Robin’s love for nature began early. She had spent much of her childhood in major cities, so when her family moved to the Ithaca area, the land’s beauty had her in awe. Her parents regularly took her and her siblings hiking and instilled a lifelong passion for the outdoors. She considers herself lucky to have had her parents as influences. They inspired her to volunteer, work for socially responsible institutions, and be environmentally conscious. She once owned and operated a restaurant and has a solid banking and customer service background. She is happy to be a part of the Ithaca Children’s Garden and looks forward to utilizing her life experiences to serve the Ithaca community.

Email Robin
ICG_teambios_2022 (6)

Kelsey B.

Education Director

With freedom to explore the outdoors as a child, Kelsey has dedicated her adulthood to providing the same to children in a preschool setting. Her favorite activities to do with the children in her care are to spot tracks in the snow and mud, search for newly emerging mushrooms, and look for arthropods in the creek. She can also be found adorning the kids with vine crowns and constructing fairy houses. On her own, she loves to find the quiet places in the forest to sit with a book or journal. She continues her education through Eastern Regional Association of Forest And Nature Schools.

Email Kelsey
ICG_teambios_2022 (9)

Trey R.

Outreach & Inclusion Manager

Public gardens are the perfect place for Trey to combine their love of the outdoors with their passion for education and social justice. They have years of working with plants and insects, fighting for LGBTQ justice, and trying to make the world a greener, more welcoming place. Trey recently completed their Master’s degree in Cornell’s Public Garden Leadership program and is thrilled to bring their experience and passion to Ithaca Children’s Garden. Outside of work, Trey enjoys hiking, gardening, LEGOs, and Dungeons and Dragons.

Email Trey
ICG_teambios_2022 (5)

Jason M.

Facilities Manager & Nature Preschool Co-Lead

Treasuring time with his family and nature in western PA as a child has carried on into the now, where he lives in the wilds of Danby with the next generation. He is ecstatic to be part of the vibrant community at ICG that has supported the joyful development of his children through programs and leisure.

Email Jason
A person wearing glasses standing in front of a vegetable garden.

Kate N.

Youth Program Manager

Kate brings over a decade of experience fostering growth and discovery in children through outdoor education. Kate’s journey in outdoor education began unexpectedly, inspired by witnessing the profound impact nature-based learning had on a socially anxious child. Her educational approach values personal growth through exploration, whether investigating under a log for pillbugs or facilitating children’s group play. Beyond her professional life, Kate’s creative spirit thrives in crafting art from natural elements, celebrating her deep connection with nature.

Email Kate

Kenley B.

Youth Program Educator

With his love for art, nutrition and fitness, and working in and with the outdoors, Ithaca Children’s Garden is the perfect place to combine all of Kenley‘s passions into one place. You can either catch him working out, reading a good book, drawing, playing with his two kitties or in the kitchen listening to music and cooking up a meal. He is very excited to bring all of these skills to the team and to pass on his knowledge on to the next generation.

Email Kenley
ICG_teambios_2022 (8)

Grace H.

Nature Preschool Co-Lead

Driving past Ithaca Children’s Garden on her move to Ithaca this summer, Grace was amazed by Gaia and had to know what else the Garden had to offer and is now excited to be a part of the team as a summer playworker. While Grace received her undergraduate degree in American Studies, she has always been interested in the field of education, having been drawn to children’s natural curiosity and creativity towards the world around them. She is excited to work with the kids this summer and be able to work in such an amazing outdoor space where she can partake in one of her favorite activities: Birdwatching. Grace has been an avid Birdwatcher since she was young, even naming her beloved cat Birdie!

Email Grace
Annika Ross

Annika R.

Youth Program Educator

Whether gardening with kids, playing in a waterfall, or talking to a kid about that weird bug they just found, Annika is passionate about connecting young people to nature. In her free time, she loves walking in forests, swimming in creeks, finding new plant species, and reading a good book. She is excited to keep working with the garden through the After School Program!

Email Annika

Brock Gibian

President, Board of Directors

Born and raised in Ithaca, Brock is an avid gardener, landscaper and general outdoorsman. He hopes to create greater and more equitable access to ICG and nature – because he knows first-hand that places such as ICG are sometimes the only place for someone to dream about a different world and reach towards it.


Iris Packman

Vice President, Board of Directors

Growing up with limited means, Iris didn’t always have access to natural areas, so she feels especially passionate about ICG’s equity and inclusion initiatives which ensure that nature is a right for all children.


Harriet Becker

Co-founder, Board of Directors

Harriet, inspired by her love of children, art and gardening, has worked along with the ICG Team since its beginnings.  She appreciates the ongoing collaborative creative additions to the programs and landscape, and is delighted that so many children feel the Garden is their very own.


Liz Kinast

Secretary, Board of Directors

Liz is thrilled to contribute her experience to ICG, where her passions for nature and early childhood converge. Liz enjoys running, raising chickens, and just about anything else outdoors, and is raising her daughters to love getting a little dirty, too.


Mark Perry

Treasurer, Board of Directors

As a lifelong environmental advocate and general outdoor enthusiast who believes strongly in childhood education, enriching life experiences and supporting local community organizations, Mark’s personal interests have a natural alignment with the mission and programs of ICG.

Jenna Hallas

Jenna Hallas

Board of Directors

As a teacher at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School, Jenna uses her passion to expose children to nature by incorporating outdoor activities, such as hikes and walks, into class. Jenna also enjoys cycling and often rides her bike to the Garden. As a Board member and Chair of the Education Committee, she is excited to support ICG’s mission and help more kids in the community access its fantastic resources.


Kate Travis

Board of Directors

Kate and her husband Frost have lived in Ithaca since 2007 and have two boys. Her interests are anything to do with kids, the arts, education, food and cooking, and the Ithaca community.


Adam Schaye

Board of Directors

While his children romped in the Anarchy Zone, Adam came to realize what treasure and resource the Garden is for adults and children of all backgrounds and interests.

PJ Moran

PJ Moran

Board of Directors

Currently the leader of the Kindergarten and First Grade programs at Greater Ithaca Activities Center, PJ’s collaborations and outings are often at or with the Ithaca Children’s Garden. As a member of ICG’s Board of Directors and Education Committee, he is excited to contribute to the growth and development of the Garden for the community’s children.

Sarah Fiorello

Sarah Fiorello

Board of Directors

Sarah fell in love with the natural beauty and community of Ithaca during her undergraduate years at Cornell and has lived in Ithaca ever since. She has been fortunate to experience Ithaca Children’s Garden growth along with her children and is delighted to give back as a board member and chair of the Interpretation Committee.

Todd Edmonds

Todd Edmonds

Interpretation Committee

Todd has nearly 40 years of experience in the design industry, helping clients visualize their stories and identities through branding and communications design. Todd graduated from the School of  Visual Arts in 1986, and has been CEO and Creative Director of Iron Design since its inception.

Sara Levin Stevenson

Sara Levin Stevenson

Interpretation Committee

ICG was one of Sara’s first stops after her move to Ithaca in the fall of 2019. She and her family are regulars in the immersive, bold, and inspiring garden. Sara has worked in public horticulture for over ten years. She is currently the communications and content manager for Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.

Beth Anderson

Beth Anderson

Development Committee

Beth Anderson retired in 2019 after working 31 years at Cornell in alumni affairs, development and communications, including 11 years at Cornell Botanic Gardens. She has served on ICG’s development committee since it was initiated, and is committed to helping the organization grow forward in its mission.  Beth’s sons enjoyed climbing on Gaia when they were boys, and she now loves to bring her grandchildren to the Garden to explore, learn, and play.

Sean Campbell

Sean Campbell

Communications Committee

Sean is the Marketing Coordinator for Finger Lakes ReUse.  He has been with ReUse since 2016 after moving to Ithaca from Los Angeles.  Some of his interests are comic books, sports and amateur photography (especially of the Ithaca Children’s Garden). Sean discovered ICG while taking his son on a long walk after moving to here and it was the first time he really “got it” about Ithaca.

Tom Cole

Tom Cole

Finance Committee

Tom has been involved with ICG in a variety of capacities – committee member, volunteer, parent, visitor – since its inception.  He is an assistant dean at Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, is married to Meg Cole (see development committee), and is the proud father of three amazing young women.

Glen Robertson

Glen Robertson

DEI Committee

Glen Robertson runs Ability in Bloom, a program of Challenge Workforce Solutions, that uses flower farming to teach work skills to adults and teens with barriers to employment.  Glen has always loved ICG as a safe, beautiful place to explore with his now teenage daughter and appreciates the garden’s accessibility for Challenge clients.

Dan Klein

Dan Klein

Site Committee

Dan Klein represents Danby and Caroline on the Tompkins County Legislature, is President of the Greensprings Natural Cemetery board of directors, and is Chair of the TCAT board of directors. He has been involved in various small ways with Ithaca Children’s Garden since Day 1.

Sarah Fiorello

Sarah Fiorello

Interpretation Committee

Sarah is passionate about providing people with meaningful ways to connect with nature through interpretation (outdoor signs, exhibits, brochures, self-guided tours, and more).  She spent the first nine years of her career leading interpretive guided tours within New York State Parks of the Finger Lakes Region and has been the Interpretation Coordinator for Cornell Botanic Gardens since 2007.

Join our team!

ICG Employment Opportunities

Interested in joining the ICG team? ICG seeks individuals committed to equity and anti-racism, people, and the planet.  We love meeting folks with enthusiasm for innovation, environmental education, youth development, nonprofit excellence, public garden leadership, and community wellness. ICG is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

ICG seeks individuals committed to equity and anti-racism, people, and the planet. Successful candidates will have enthusiasm for innovation, environmental education, youth development, nonprofit excellence, public garden leadership, and community wellness. ICG is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Please take a look at our Benefits Policy.

All internships are available to work-study eligible students or those interested in an academic credit or unpaid internship. Please check back soon for available positions or reach out to inquire about availability by email to .

What to expect once you apply*

Our team is ICG’s greatest asset; we want to find the candidate who is the best fit for organizational goals and is a complement to our existing team. We know interviews can be awkward, artificial interactions that don’t always help candidates shine; we also know that the skills for a successful interview are not necessarily congruent with the skills needed to shine in the job. So, we share with you here what to expect so all applicants have an opportunity to prepare themselves for the most successful process possible. We hope having this outline will help put you at ease through the selection process.

Please note that this is a general outline and timelines are subject to change (and frequently do). However the order of events remains relatively consistent.

  1. Within 2-3 business days of submitting your application, you will receive a confirmation email that we received your application. (If you do not hear from us within one week, please follow up to confirm we received your application).
  2. Within 1-2 weeks following the application due date, we will reach out to our top candidates to schedule interviews. The number of candidates we invite to the first round of interviews depends on how many qualified applicants have applied. If you do not hear from us within this period, it is most likely that you were not selected for the first round of interviews. This does not mean you are not eligible for consideration. On occasion, when our first round of interviews does not result in a candidate being selected for the position, we return to the applicant pool to select additional candidates to interview.
  3. If invited to interview, you are welcome to ask any questions that might help you prepare successfully, such as who will be on the interview panel, questions you have about the ICG or the job duties, or anything else you would like to know that is not readily accessible on ICG’s website that you feel would help you prepare for your interview.
  4. At the time your interview is scheduled, you will be informed of the duration, format (in person or remote) and any other details. You may request interview questions ahead of time.
  5. At the start of the interview, you will be welcomed by the leader of the interview team, who will also explain the interview format (e.g. duration, how many questions, whether interviewers will take turns asking, etc.). Interview panels usually consist of 2-5 people including staff and volunteers. All interviewers will introduce themselves and you will be asked to introduce yourself as well. 
  6. The interview will proceed with questions that will be asked of you; often interviewers will take turns asking questions. Usually we ask about 8-12 questions in the first interview. We ask questions we think will help us get to know you more as a person and as a potential team member of Ithaca Children’s Garden, as well as get to know your qualifications. 
  7. We conclude with time for you to ask your questions. If you ask a question we can’t immediately address, we will follow up with an answer.
  8. From our initial interviewees, we select semi-finalists who advance to a second interview. This interview may take place with the same panel, a completely different panel, or a blend of familiar and new faces. Second interviews usually include some of the same questions, along with new questions. They may follow the same pattern as the first interview or take a different approach, depending on the position. This will be explained in more detail at the time the second interview is scheduled.
  9. Following second interviews, we may follow up with additional questions, or on rare occasions we may call for a third interview. Once we have narrowed our pool to the top 1-2 finalists, we will ask for and contact your references. Please be sure to include your two most recent direct supervisors in your list of references and please let your references know we may be contacting them; we will need references to get back to us promptly so please choose references who are responsive.
  10. Once we check your references, and assuming all is in order, we will contact you and offer you the position. It is always great when someone is ready to accept the offer on the spot, however if you need to think it over, we will provide you with a date by which we need a response. We strive to be as transparent as possible about the compensation so that folks do not waste time (theirs or ours) on a position with compensation that is very different from what they seek. While there may be some marginal room for negotiation, we give a great deal of thought to our pay, strive to pay the most we can, and budget accordingly. If the salary you seek is more than 5-10% different from what is listed, please let us know early on so we address it proactively.
  11. One you accept the position verbally, we will prepare an offer letter reflecting the terms discussed for you to review and sign. Once this offer letter has been signed, the remaining candidates will be notified that the position has been filled. 
  12. If you advance part way along this process and then do not hear back from us, please be patient; we have not forgotten about you. We like to avoid telling a strong candidate that they are no longer in the running for a position until the position is filled, since often candidates who have applied are still at the top of the list of eligibility until the position is filled. As soon as we have clarity that you will not advance to the next phase of the selection process, we will communicate this to you.  If you haven’t heard from us, it means your application is still being considered. If at any time you accept another position or wish to withdraw your application, please let us know.

We hope this outline helps demystify the application and interview process. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the hiring manager with any questions.

*the process for seasonal employees and some positions may differ from the above outline

A special Thank You to Our 

Key Partners & Sponsors

Faces of Philanthropy

Why do you love & support The Garden?

Photographer Sarah Clapp asked this question to some of ICG’s incredible members, partners, and Garden enthusiasts, and the outcome was simply beautiful. The resulting exhibition, Photographing Philanthropy for the Love of Humanity, debuted at ICG’s 2017 Annual Celebration and perfectly encapsulates the role of the Garden in the lives and hearts of ICG devotees. See for yourself!