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Team

Meet the people that help make ICG grow!

ICG Team Members

Erin Marteal

Pronouns: she/her/hers
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.

As recipient of the Cornell University Dreer Award, Erin spent six months researching permaculture in public garden education in Australia, New Zealand and Trinidad. In 2015 she received the Florence Hoard Award for Community Beautification and was published in The Public Garden Journal as a young leader of note in the field of public horticulture.

Under Erin’s leadership, ICG received the American Public Garden Association Program Excellence Award in 2017. Erin currently serves as treasurer of Executive Exchange, (an association of Tompkins County non-profit executive directors); advisory council member of Cornell Botanic Gardens; steering committee member of the Biophilia: Ithaca Chapter; Finger Lakes ReUse as a board member; and writes a monthly column for Tompkins Weekly, “Into the Great Outdoors.” Erin is inspired by permaculture, playwork and is dedicated to cultivating organizational sustainability, nourishing connections to food, environment, and joy. She believes all children should have the right to climb trees. Erin has been serving as ICG’s Executive Director since 2011, and welcomes the chance to talk with you about your ideas and how ICG can become part of your life too!

Ritza Francois

Pronouns: she/her/hers
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!

Monique Caraballo

Pronouns: she/her/hers
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.

Tori Chamberlin

Pronouns: she/her/hers
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.

Richard Lansdowne

Pronouns: 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. Before that he worked seasonally at garden centers while pursuing his studies. He grew up near the headwaters of Fall Creek and enjoys playing outside. With his partner Margo, he pursues adventures in edible landscaping and year-round gardening.

Jenna Garmhausen

Pronouns: she/her/hers
Youth Programs Manager

Jenna 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. She’s 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 her guiding principles with children.

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

Kelsey Brewster

Pronouns: she/her/hers
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. Outside of the program time, she continues her education through Eastern Regional Association of Forest And Nature Schools. This program awarded her a Nature-Based Teacher Certification and provides more educational opportunities she hopes to pursue in the future. Her favorite activities to do with the children in her care is 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.

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

Jason Mcclevish

Pronouns: he/him/his
Facilities Manager & Preschool Nature Co-Lead

Flowing with the ever changing calls of the present, Jason strives to engage and revel in the blessings and growth that are at hand.
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.
He is excited to share his varied strengths and love of the outside to support a broader spectrum of fellow empowered beings.
As graduate of Evergreen in WA, teacher at a Reggio Emilia inspired preschool, student of life, and devoted parent -he appreciates dynamic experiential education that values the individual’s unique path to realization.
While working hard growing (plants, persons, perspectives), creating (stuffies, structures, safe spaces), or maintaining (properties, relationships, awareness)-he brings a grounded can do attitude that helps make big things possible and holds small things precious.
There is nowhere better than the Ithaca Children’s Garden for our shared play and experience, so let’s grow together there!

ICG Board of Directors

Sonja Skelly

President, Board of Directors

As a mom and West Hill resident, Sonja and her family enjoy the Garden almost every week. 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. She is passionate about connecting children to nature and studied the benefits of gardens to youth in Texas, Florida, and Mississippi before moving to Ithaca. She offers ICG expertise in public garden education, connecting children to nature, and public garden administration. She is thrilled to contribute to such a dynamic organization and looks forward to helping the Ithaca Children’s Garden mean as much to all children and families as it does to hers.

Adam Schaye

Vice President, Board of Directors

Adam grew up in the Boston area, and came to Ithaca in the late 1990s, graduating from Cornell Law School in 1999. He is an immigration lawyer, and partner in the Ithaca law firm, Miller Mayer, LLP. Adam lives with his wife and three elementary and middle-school aged sons, who introduced him to the joy of the Ithaca Children’s Garden. 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

Volunteering had always been a large part of Harriet’s life from helping out in her children’s elementary school to designing signs and scheduling classes in in the early days of the Sciencenter. Being a transplanted Californian, she only began enjoying the Finger Lakes region after enrolling in the local Master Gardeners’ course and learning about the wonderful world of gardening. A children’s garden was a great way to join together all her interests. She was fortunate to work along with two knowledgeable and inspirational friends, Monika Roth and Mary Alyce Kobler, to begin Ithaca Children’s Garden. She is delighted to see so many happy folks visiting and exploring the garden daily, and is excited to be involved in the latest ideas and developments. She can be found being guided around the garden by her granddaughter, who loves Gaia and all that the garden has to offer.

Monika Roth

Co-Founder, Board of Directors

Monika Roth is the Agriculture & Horticulture Program Leader for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. Her duties range from working with farmers on agriculture business development and marketing, working with towns on farmland use policy, to answering gardening questions and supporting volunteer efforts including Master Gardeners, Citizen Pruners and the Countywide Beautification Program. 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 liasion to ICG. Monika studied biology as an undergrad and has a Masters in Agricultural Economics from Cornell.

MARK PERRY, TREASURER, BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Mark Perry

Board of Directors

Mark is an alum of Ithaca College who returned to the area in the Spring of 2015 with his wife Elizabeth (“Baz”)—a Cornell alumna—and two wonderful kids, Iona and Guthrie. Today they live on their homestead in Danby, raising small livestock and farm-fresh eggs and veggies, and Mark works as an audit director at Cornell.

Mark and his family started exploring the Garden in the mid-2000’s when visiting grandparents in town. During the process of moving to the Ithaca area and discovering family life around town, the Garden became a sanctuary of sorts, giving their children a wonderful calming place to explore and romp around, while learning in a safe outdoors environment. Gaia the magical turtle quickly became a beloved spot and the Anarchy Zone is an exciting recent addition. The Fire & Ice Festival is now an annual tradition! ICG remains one of the family’s favorite places to visit, relax, explore and dig in the dirt.

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 of Directors

Kartik Sribarra has more than a decade of nonprofit experience, including two AmeriCorps assignments. Most recently, he spent six years at the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Washington, D.C., where he directed efforts to build a groundswell of support from elected officials, leaders, and the general public. 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. He earned his Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from Portland State University and his undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester. Kartik and his family live at White Hawk Ecovillage in Danby, where he is an aspiring homesteader.

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. She enjoys her 3 months on Sanibel Island where she and her husband work as docents at J.Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. At Kendal at Ithaca she is very interested in the Gardening Committee and the work that she carries on there every Monday night from 5-7.

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. He received a history degree from Manchester University in Indiana, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, and later earned landscape architecture degrees from Purdue and Cornell University. During his years in Ithaca, Dan has served on the city’s Parks Commission, Shade Tree Commission and has invested many hours as a volunteer with the Children’s Garden.

LIZ KINAST, BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Liz Kinast

Board of Directors

Liz’s love of nature began as a young girl, watching birds with her grandmother, climbing trees, and playing in the creek. In her work life, Liz serves as assistant director of gift planning administration and stewardship at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where she helps supporters create a legacy that expresses their love of birds and nature. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics from Wake Forest University and has spent her career in development and communications for mission-driven organizations. She’s 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. She can be reached at lizkinast@hotmail.com.

IRIS PACKMAN, BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Iris Packman

Board of Directors

Iris grew up in Ithaca, attended Cornell (BSILR ’06), and recently returned from the DC area so that her daughters could experience the joy and beauty of this town. 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. Iris and her family have had wonderful experiences with the Playful Nature Explorers preschool program and the ICG summer camps, both of which encourage children to build lifelong relationships with the natural world. While most of her career has been in social justice advocacy, since becoming a parent, she has come to understand the significance of early childhood education and exposure to nature as a foundational part of the fight for equality. Iris is an attorney by training, specializing in labor & employment law, as well as policy-making to support nonprofits.

KATE TRAVIS, BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Kate Travis

Board of Directors

Kate joined the Ithaca Children’s Garden board in April 2020. She was previously on the board of the Hangar Theatre, serving on the Development Committee and working on special fundraising events. Kate also volunteers for local fundraisers like Benefit My State, an annual State Theatre event. 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.

Cornell Cooperative Extension 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.

As recipient of the Cornell University Dreer Award, Erin spent six months researching permaculture in public garden education in Australia, New Zealand and Trinidad. In 2015 she received the Florence Hoard Award for Community Beautification and was published in The Public Garden Journal as a young leader of note in the field of public horticulture.

Under Erin’s leadership, ICG received the American Public Garden Association Program Excellence Award in 2017. Erin currently serves as treasurer of Executive Exchange, (an association of Tompkins County non-profit executive directors); advisory council member of Cornell Botanic Gardens; steering committee member of the Biophilia: Ithaca Chapter; Finger Lakes ReUse as a board member; and writes a monthly column for Tompkins Weekly, “Into the Great Outdoors.” Erin is inspired by permaculture, playwork and is dedicated to cultivating organizational sustainability, nourishing connections to food, environment, and joy. She believes all children should have the right to climb trees. Erin has been serving as ICG’s Executive Director since 2011, and welcomes the chance to talk with you about your ideas and how ICG can become part of your life too!

Leigh, ICG EDUCATION DIRECTOR

Leigh MacDonald-Rizzo

Education Director

Leigh has been supporting plant and environmental education as a Cornell Cooperative Extension employee and part of the ICG team since 1999. Her collection of wide-ranging interests have, at their core, the magic of childhood and wonder of the natural world.

After studying horticulture at Cornell, Leigh focused her master’s work on environmental education in public garden settings. Leigh believes wholeheartedly in the connection between environmental stewardship and meaningful time in nature during childhood. Her work at ICG allows a unique blend of fostering outdoor, child-led free play and hands-on, multidisciplinary exploration of the natural world. After 15 years of developing and leading education programs for Ithaca Children’s Garden, Leigh feels ICG’s focus on permaculture and playwork lay the foundation for the next generation of environmental stewards.

In her years in service, Leigh has earned a reputation as a first rate educator. With 3 young boys of her own, she knows what kids like, and loves to deliver it through program innovation, design, and evaluation.

Lauren Salzman, ICG OUTREACH EDUCATOR AND TUF COORDINATOR

Lauren Salzman

Outreach Educator and TUF Coordinator

Lauren has over ten years of experience leading educational programming with non-profits, nature centers, museums and community organizations. She received a Master’s in Education from a unique program at Western Washington University in conjunction with the North Cascades Institute focusing on leadership and field-based, experiential learning. She has continued to work as a Cornell Cooperative Extension educator with increasing responsibilities in program design, assessment and organizational collaborations. She also loves all animals, walking in the woods, playing big games, sitting quietly by a fire, and being outside in the wind, rain, snow, heat, and everything in between.

As an avid naturalist, Lauren has always loved plants and studying the natural world. In recent years, that has translated to working on organic farms, community gardens, and now her own gardens to pursue deeper connections with food systems. With her own roots growing deeply in Ithaca soil, Lauren is thrilled to be making meaningful and magical connections between local youth and the natural world.