The Birth of a Garden and Non-profit


And the work starts!

In the late winter/early spring of 2015, I attended several summits including the “No Child Left Inside” program, toured several school gardens, and started meeting with Five Rivers Metro Parks to establish a Green Schoolyard.  I was also fortunate enough to attend a conference where Richard Louv was a speaker.  In case you’re not familiar with him,  Richard Louv wrote the books Last Child In The Woods, Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and research regarding the importance of nature for everyone’s well-being. I highly recommend his work.  He inspired me to share my love of nature with children and adults, and on May 1, 2015 we built our first raised bed in the garden, got a load of topsoil, and our little garden began!



And so we begin! 

Developing the garden would not be easy, with lots of planning, research, trial and error, 100’s of volunteer hours for students and adults, and good ole hard work.  Thank goodness our work was made easier when the principal, teachers, and administration caught the vision as well, and were supportive. 


Grants, Volunteers, and Veggies…

After bringing our large garden to fruition and maintaining it through the help of community partners, volunteers, students, and school staff, our garden flourished.  In 2019, our Green Schoolyard received a grant from the Montgomery Co Public Health Department for the Healthy Communities initiative to grow fresh vegetables for our community.  With the help of Tate & Lyle, PNC Bank, UD volunteers, and Occupational Therapy Assistant student volunteers from Sinclair Community College, we began expanding our infrastructure to build more beds and acquiring the plants to fulfill this grant.    We had Nine teachers and their classrooms who planted, maintained, and harvested our vegetables for our local food bank.  




EF4 Dayton Tornado Hits!

The Memorial Day tornados were devastating to many parts of Dayton and the surrounding areas.   Our school is located off Troy Street in Dayton, which was among one of the hardest-hit areas.   Several of the 15 tornados skipped and jumped all around our school building and our garden space.    We had several large trees, lots of roof shingles and a few things destroyed in our garden.  But we were lucky,  many of the houses only a street or two away were destroyed.   Families were left without food, water, basic necessities, and many of their homes were gone.   During July of that summer, the food bank came to our school to supply our community with much needed food, water, and supplies.   Before leaving for our summer break,  we had planted the garden full of vegetables, and thanks to the  help of volunteers, we were able to donate  51 pounds of fresh vegetables to our neighbors.   




Loss of district support… and the birth of our non-profit


Unfortunately, when school started in the fall of 2019, we had to rethink our vision for our outdoor learning lab/garden, due to losing the support of district administration.  As often happens in large school districts, changes are made in personnel, and I was moved out of the building where I had developed, managed, and maintained the garden space for 5 years.  Since my office was no longer located at Kiser, it became extremely difficult to try and maintain the garden,  and of course,  to provide experiences/therapy for children in the garden.  In years past, every day I was in the building I was aware of how much the students loved being out in the garden.   I couldn’t walk down the hallway without students begging me to take them out into it.    I had talked with several teachers who really wanted to take students to the garden, plan events, and do wonderful things with their students there, but they just couldn’t find the time.  It’s hard to manage and supervise events in the garden, when you have dozens of children to watch over.  I refused to abandon the very children who had helped bring this garden space into a beautiful area that everyone in the building enjoyed, so I developed my own nonprofit so that I could return to this garden after my school hours were worked.   With that in mind, I decided I needed to take on a new role, separate from being a Dayton Public School employee.  


Until the fall of 2019 

“Lessons From the Garden” had been something I had dreamed about….but now it was time to stop dreaming and begin working towards bringing my vision into reality.  With the help of my husband, friends, and family who donated the money to get it licensed, “Lessons From the Garden” was granted nonprofit status on January 3,  2020.   


The vision continues…..

I decided that I could still take students out into the garden after work hours in a non-profit Garden Club role.  I returned to the garden in the late fall of 2019 to host the first Garden Club of Kiser.  Through this Club, I was able once again to help students connect to their school garden and very own “wildlife habitat” — right outside their school doors!  I had planned to return in the spring as well, (but COVID 19 put an end to that).  I am hoping that this spring, I will be able to return. 


Founder Kathy Gooch |COTA/L

I was born in the mountains of East Tennessee and was fortunate enough to live on a beautiful farm there.  My childhood was spent taking care of and riding horses, playing (or working) all day outside, building forts in the woods, taking care of cats, dogs, rabbits, chickens, and hamsters, fishing, hiking, and muddling through school.  I very rarely watched TV, because there was always something more interesting outside that I wanted to do.  



kiser garden

My family instilled a love of nature and animals at an early age.  My folks and grandparents always had a large garden and grew much of our food.  My Mam-maws were always “putting up” fruits and vegetables, and teaching me how to make things out of nature (bracelets of clovers, necklaces out of dogwood berries, etc).  I wish I had listened more to their folk remedies using herbs and weeds.  

My husband and I left our families in Tennessee and moved to Ohio about 36 years ago.  It was one of the hardest decisions we had ever made in our lives, but fortunately, we were able to stay close to our families even though we lived so far away.  


I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my children while they were young, but once the last child started school, I decided to go to work as a hostess at the Lazarus in downtown Dayton.  1 night I turned on the TV and learned that the store was closing.  Luckily, they offered the displaced employees an opportunity to go to school.  So off to Sinclair I went and graduated at age 36.   


My first job out of school was at Dayton Public Schools, as a certified and licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L).  I have remained there for 24 years as of this writing.  When we started the Kiser School Garden, I  had worked for DPS  for 19 years, and in this particular elementary building for 9 years. 


As a practitioner of Occupational Therapy in the schools,  I have been trained to think about the whole child.  This includes their emotional & social health, their ability to visualize and play freely, to explore and understand the sensory world around them, and encourage their need to have a place to explore and connect with the natural environment.  With all of these things in mind, I began developing our outdoor learning lab/garden area.   It has become one of the best therapy spaces I could ever wish for….even better than I had dreamed.  





kiser garden
kiser garden angels
kathy gooch kiser garden
kathy gooch kiser garden

I am a wife of 41 years, mother to 3 wonderful children, and Memaw to 5 glorious grandchildren.  I am fortunate enough that 2 of my children, and 3 of my grandchildren live close, so I get to see them often.  My son and his family (2 grandsons), live in California.   Thank goodness for FaceTime and Zoom!  As a side note…..California is a wonderful place to visit!

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