Landscape Design for Youth Gardens

Learn the basic steps and elements of landscape design for an interactive, fun, and sustainable youth garden.

Recordings, Readings, 
and Resources

Starting Date

Available Asynchronously from May 1, 2023


Sarah Pounders
Amy Wagenfeld

Class Length

Self-Paced with
12 weeks of access to the course materials.


  • 8 Sessions
  • 8 Readings
  • 8 Optional Assignments


$25 per Enrollee

About the Course

A youth garden provides opportunities for kids to play, learn, and grow through plant-based and garden-based activities. But how do we design youth gardens to facilitate play, learning, and engagement for all kids?

To achieve a high level of engagement, it’s important for the adults designing the garden to view the world through the eyes of a child and focus on how kids can enjoy and feel comfortable interacting in and with the space. At the same time, we must ensure the space is safe, accessible, visually appealing, and easy to maintain.

In this course, instructors will introduce participants to the basic steps and elements of landscape design that can be used to plan a youth-friendly garden that is engaging and appealing to youth and their communities.

The focus will be on the practical application of basic design techniques to help new-to-youth gardening educators, community volunteers/leaders, and family members start a gardening journey with the kids in their lives.

Course Objectives

Through this course, participants will explore each of the following through the lens of creating garden spaces for youth:

  • Basic landscape design steps and principles.
  • Youth-friendly plant selection, garden themes, and hardscape elements.
  • Accessible design elements to create garden spaces for diverse youth audiences.
  • Garden structures and techniques to ease maintenance and support sustainability.

Course Structure

This course includes 8 pre-recorded classes so students can pace their own learning over the course of 12 weeks. Each class module also includes a recommended reading and an optional assignment. 

At the end of each class, students are asked to complete an evaluation survey.

A community discussion board is available for students to interact with each other and the course instructor.

Course Lessons

Em Shipman
Executive Director

Em’s vision is grounded in the principle that children are able to realize their full potential when they have access to healthy food and hands-on, outdoor play, and learning opportunities. She is working to ensure the next generations of young people become the tidal wave of social and environmental change leaders needed to alter our trajectory and heal our planet and people.

Em is a nonprofit executive with nearly 20 years of experience leading transformative programs in food systems, agriculture, and education. She holds a B.A. in Public Policy and Anthropology from Hobart and William Smith College and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Marlboro College Graduate School.

For as long as Em can remember she has been committed to growing community. She is a passionate advocate for children and the planet and believes that garden-based learning and hands-on, placed-based education benefit both. Em has also worked as a professional gardener and garden designer and spends all of her free time (and then some) digging in the dirt. 

Sarah Pounders 
Senior Education Specialist

Sarah Pounders has been active in the field of youth gardening for over 20 years. Growing up surrounded by plants instilled a deep love of gardens and the desire to share that love with others. While working toward her master’s degree in Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University, she had the opportunity to serve as a school garden coordinator and conduct research on the benefits of using school garden programs to teach nutrition.

She went on to work at various botanical gardens, for Cooperative Extension in Virginia and Texas, and since 2005 as an Education Specialist at, coordinating numerous children’s gardens, writing curricula and activities for youth of all ages, teaching formal and informal youth education programs, and conducting teacher training sessions on integrating gardens into the classroom. She also enjoys gardening at home with her two children and volunteering with local school garden programs.

Amy Wagenfeld

Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, EDAC, FAOTA is an occupational therapist, therapeutic and universal design consultant, educator, researcher, and author. She is on the faculty of Boston University’s Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy program, the University of Washington’s Department of Landscape Architecture, and the New York Botanical Garden’s Certificate in Therapeutic Horticulture. She is also Principal of Amy Wagenfeld | Design, a therapeutic design consulting organization. Amy is a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association, holds evidence-based design accreditation and certification (EDAC) through the Center for Health Design, specialty certification in environmental modifications (SCEM) through the American Occupational Therapy Association, and certification in Healthcare Garden Design through the Chicago Botanical Garden. She was recently awarded the American Occupational Therapy Association Recognition of Achievement for her unique blending of occupational therapy and therapeutic design. Amy publishes and presents widely on topics related to nature and health and is co-author of the award-winning book, Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces published by Timber Press.
Created with