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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.

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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 Marteal

Executive Director / CEO

With 18 years of experience, Erin has worked with Cornell Garden-based Learning, developed permaculture education programs for children and schools at Durban Botanic Gardens in South Africa, and received a Master’s degree from Cornell University in Public Garden Leadership.

Email Erin

Monique Caraballo

Communications & Marketing Coordinator

Monique has wildly varied hobbies that include gardening, web development, and photography. Some of her favorite things are: her many children, sunflowers, music, unicorns, and the color pink. A vocal champion for equity and inclusion, she is inspired by the mission Ithaca Children’s Garden supports. She has worked in communications and social media for over a decade.

Email Monique

Tori Chamberlin

Philanthropy Associate

Tori’s experiences learning and healing outdoors inspire her passion to help more people connect with green spaces. She’s happy to use her passion to contribute to ICG’s mission through her development work. You can often find her bird watching, splashing in the lake, painting, or playing a new game with family and friends. Tori joined the team in 2018 as an Americorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America). She has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and a minor in Communication Studies from Ithaca College.

Email Tori

Richard Lansdowne, he/him/his

Operations Manager

Richard’s interest in the study of play drew him to attend all of Ithaca Children’s Garden’s play symposiums. He holds degrees in both accounting and philosophy and has worked for mission-driven organizations since moving to the Ithaca area in 2003.

Email Richard

Kelsey Brewster

Nature Preschool Educator

With freedom to explore the outdoors as a child, Kelsey has now dedicated her adulthood to providing the same to children in a preschool setting. She has spent the last few years supporting kids in fostering their connection to the natural world by giving them the space to grow and explore.

Email Kelsey
Jason Mcclevish, ICG facilities manager and preschool nature co-lead

Jason Mcclevish

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

Ritza Francois

Director of Development

Ritza comes to the Ithaca Children’s Garden with a strong background in business relationship building, community engagement, and volunteer management. She is an Ithaca College Business School Alumni ‘15, and has been working in the community ever since!
As an ICG volunteer, Ritza found her passion for non profit development work, that is centered around providing every child the basic human right to play, learn, and grow outdoors. To Ritza, the Garden brings healing and supporting that cause brings joy to her heart.
In her free time, you can find Ritza playing eye spy at ICG, hula hooping and teaching the community about compost!

Email Ritza
Jessie Garmhausen

Jessie Garmhausen

Youth Programs Manager

Jessie is a strong believer in the power of nature to instruct, center and heal; and in the dignity and importance of each and every child. They’ve worked with children for two decades, along with being a stay-at-home parent to a son and two daughters. Attunement, belonging and fun are their guiding principles with children. 

They are a passionate advocate for gender inclusivity, and the rights of transgender and non-binary kids. Jessie has a long career as an artist, writes in their free time, and spends as much time as possible exploring Six Mile Creek near their home.

Email Jessie
Grace Heath

Grace Heath

After School Program Educator

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
Join Our Team

Youth horticulture programming at ICG and out in the community is made possible through a contractual relationship between ICG and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. Learn more about this partnership.


Erin Marteal

Executive Director / CEO

With 18 years of experience, Erin has worked with Cornell Garden-based Learning, developed permaculture education programs for children and schools at Durban Botanic Gardens in South Africa, and received a Master’s degree from Cornell University in Public Garden Leadership. She is currently a Cornell Cooperative Extension educator working as ICG’s Executive director.


Lauren Salzman

Senior Educator

With a background in Environmental Studies, an M.Ed in Environmental Education, and almost 20 years of experience working outside with children of all ages, ICG is exactly where she wants to be! As an avid naturalist, Lauren has always loved plants and studying the natural world.  She is a Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County educator serving as ICG Interim Education Director.


Sonja Skelly

President, Board of Directors

When not chasing her little girl through the mud of the Anarchy Zone or sitting in the birds’ nest pretending to be a “mommy bird,” Sonja is the Director of Education and Communications for Cornell Botanic Garden.


Adam Schaye

Vice President, 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.


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.


Monika Roth

Co-Founder, Board of Directors

Along with Harriet Becker and Mary Alyce Kobler, she helped to found and has supported the Ithaca Children’s Garden since it’s inception in 1999. Her role on the board is as the CCETC staff liaison to ICG.


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.


Kartik Sribarra

Board Secretary, Board of Directors

After moving to Ithaca in 2012, he transitioned to being a stay-at-home dad and now spends much of his time outside with his two kids–often at the Children’s Garden’s Anarchy Zone.


Joyce Barney

Board of Directors

Joyce Barney has lived in Ithaca for the last 45 years. She has been a teacher and school administrator most of that time. From 1998- 2002, she was the Principal of Beverly Martin School. Next to her love of kids, her most significant passions are birds and gardening.

Dan Krall

Dan Krall

Board of Directors

Dan Krall, a retired professor, is a long-time resident of Ithaca where he taught in the Cornell Department of Landscape Architecture. Growing up in central Illinois, Krall spent his summers working on farms and gardens throughout his small community.


Liz Kinast

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.


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.


Iris Packman

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.

Brock Gibian

Brock Gibian

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.

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.

Meg Cole

Meg Cole

Development Committee

Meg is fortunate to have been involved with ICG since its beginnings in a variety of ways – parent, founding director, visitor, and committee member. The garden brings her pure joy! She is married to Tom Cole (see finance committee), and is the proud mother of three daughters who helped plant ICG’s first seeds.

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 candidate will have enthusiasm for innovation, environmental education, youth development, nonprofit excellence, public garden leadership, and community wellness. ICG is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Executive Director

All internships are available to work study eligible students or those interested in an academic credit or unpaid internship. Internship types include Horticulture, Development & Fundraising, Marketing & Communications, Photojournalism, and Non-Profit Administration. For more information and directions on how to apply, click the button below:

Learn More

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!