Planting the Seed

Lions fill the succulent bowls.


You don’t have to plant a forest to save the environment. Simply planting the seed for a love of nature in the younger generation may ensure they will grow to love and protect the natural world.


Sarah Panganiban, the mother of two preschoolers in California, posted a message on a neighborhood website looking for helpers. She wanted to transform her San Diego library’s rocky open patio space into a garden where children like hers could learn about nature.

Panganiban had US$100 for the project and not much time if she wanted to offer a summer nature education program for young children like her own.

Take on a project with no money and little time? The San Diego United Lions jumped right in.

In a few weeks they could beautify their community and give children a place to joyfully learn how to care for the Earth.

The Lions quickly organized, planned, and made a budget.

Children help fill the raised garden bed.

They transported 265 five-gallon buckets of compost and garden soil from the back of a truck to the future garden over one hot and humid day. They gathered in multiple homes to cut wood and build raised vegetable beds, hitting bumps and thumbs along the way. They assembled a children’s playhouse with 96 screws. They built, painted, and made trips to the hardware store again and again.

Neighbors and friends were invited to join them, and when the work moved onsite, children were given plastic shovels and pails to help with the “heavy lifting.” They learned how to plant flowers and vegetables, and then how to take care of them.

Finished in time, the new outdoor area soon included raised garden beds stocked with fruits and vegetables, a sensory garden, an outdoor sink and garden hose, recycle bins, a bird bath, wind chimes, and benches for reading and reflection.

In just three weeks Lions converted an empty patio space into a vibrant educational garden.

Over three weeks’ time an unused patio became a beautiful educational area where all ages could learn, have fun, and rest.

“It was done totally out of love for the earth,” says library branch manager Ina Gibson. “The Lions have worked very hard to create a garden. I know what it used to look like and I know what it looks like now. It provides a focal point for our library, a pleasant place to sit and read, or for rambunctious kids to get a little energy out. It’s charming and lovely.”

Panganiban grew up in the Mira Mesa neighborhood and has been visiting the library since she was 7. Now a library volunteer, she leads the children’s Green Thumbs Garden Club where she reads a story, leads a craft, and then helps the children water, pull weeds, and talk about what’s happening in the garden.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” she says.

Students make notes as they cross a newly constructed boardwalk along the Cedar Swamp Nature Trail.


In Sutton, Massachusetts a 1.5-mile nature trail behind the schools is much more than just a way to traverse the swamp.

Since its construction in the 1970s Cedar Swamp Nature Trail became a natural setting for science classes focusing on pond life, swamp habitat, and forests, but also for creative writing classes seeking inspiration in nature, and for the students in history who used it to study survival shelters in their lessons about early man.

The problem, though, was that as years passed the trail was neglected and became overgrown with prickers and small trees. Large trees had fallen and blocked areas, and in sections that extended over the water the wood had become rotten and unsafe.

It was a treasure that was slowly disappearing.

But when a teacher at the nearby Sutton Middle School brought it to the attention of the Sutton Lions, they stepped right up, and so did Boy Scout JP Capuano who was hoping to fulfill his Eagle Scout requirements.

Together the Lions and Capuano agreed that Lions would provide the manpower, funding, and technical knowhow to restore the trail. Capuano would coordinate help with high school students and other scouts to clear the trail and remove debris.

Their project began shortly after Labor Day and was completed by early December. Sutton Lions constructed 12 8-foot-long bridge and boardwalk sections. Twelve yards of crushed stone were delivered to be spread along the trail and stabilize ground conditions.

Over a three-month period of spending weekends on the trail, about 30 Lions donated more than 100 man hours in service and US$1,300 for materials. Boy Scouts contributed about 80 hours. And soon after completion, classes started using the trail again.

Science teacher Deborah O’Neil wrote to thank Lions and the Boy Scouts for restoring the area.

“It’s a wonderful resource for me as I teach Biology and Environmental Science,” she said. “This is invaluable because I am able to get the students outside and pique their interest in nature, which is missing from many of their lives now.”