Erin Marteal, Executive Director
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.
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!
Phoebe Wyllyamz, Assistant Camp Director 3-5
Once there was a Goddess of Muck and Moonlight who enjoyed playing with creatures great and small. Splashing, catching, observing, and honoring the light in all. Phoebe enjoys life-learning with her family and creating amigurumi art. She has worked with children for 25+ years and continues to learn from them every day!
Laticia Perkins, Assistant Camp Director 6-12
Laticia recently joined our team as Assistant Camp Director for children aged six to twelve. In addition to receiving her Associate's degree in Sustainable Farming and Food Systems, Laticia also has more than ten years of active grassroots work experience in Tompkins County and in childcare, working in the community as a Garden Work Child Care Provider. She thrives in environments where she can encourage access, awareness, and acceptance in everyone.
She strives to create community connections so that people can come together to fight for food justice and healthy food for all. At Ithaca Children’s Garden, she hopes to encourage every person, big and small, to find a place to be themselves and feel accepted and appreciated. We all have something to teach and learn! She loves seeing the spark in both adults and children's eyes when their experiences in the Garden open doors for them to explore and learn. The Garden is a place for people to be themselves, and learn about life and growth in a variety of magical ways. As Associate Camp Director, she encourages play and the ultimate use of imagination for everyone! Laticia is excited to spend these hot Summer days sharing, connecting, appreciating, and most importantly demonstrating care, compassion, and willingness to grow, and providing a new perspective on sustainability, learning, and playing.
Tori Chamberlin, Americorps VISTA Member
Tori is serving in the Americorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program. She graduated from Ithaca College in 2017, with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and a minor in Communication Studies. Tori has a deep connection and love for the Ithaca community. Now four years after her introduction to the area, she is happy to return and have the opportunity to work with Ithaca Children’s Garden.
Tori Grew up in the woods of Western New York, where she fostered a deep relationship with the natural environment. This relationship gave her great gratitude for the opportunities she had as a kid to play in the trees and dig in the dirt. Tori now has a passion to help build strong communities that have access to learning in their local environments. She is serving Ithaca Children’s Garden by helping to build capacity that will increase the garden’s ability to serve disadvantaged youth and families.
Yara Almeida, Marketing and Communications Intern
Yara is currently enrolled at Cornell University as a Communication major minoring in Film and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She joined the Garden as a Marketing and Communications intern this Summer as her first experience working with a public garden; she is amazed by all the fun and educational outdoor activities the Garden has to offer for children. She hopes to learn more about the Garden while working to make sure the entire community knows that the Garden is free and open to all. Yara is involved with the Public Service Center at Cornell and is a member of the Faculty Committee for Support of Teaching and Learning in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This is her second year staying in Ithaca during the Summer and she is excited to enjoy the swimming and hiking areas throughout Ithaca.
Jean Gerow, Facilities Manager
Jean is a master gardener who brings a deep love of plants and experience working with plants as a long-time volunteer at the Cornell Plantations.
Jean's passion is wildflowers, and has loved scouting for them since childhood. She has been known to drag unsuspecting friends on hikes along the Finger Lakes Trail in search of a specific orchid or other plant of interest, stopping constantly to check out and identify anything blooming. An avid quilter, she takes inspiration from nature to create colorful pieces she shares with family and friends. And she LOVES parties!
Eli Corning, Horticulture Intern
Eli Corning is one of two horticulture interns for the summer of 2018. Eli grew up in Ovid, NY, and has enjoyed spending time in Ithaca and at Ithaca Children’s Garden since he was a child. He now studies environmental science at Cornell, with strong interests in sustainable agriculture, ethnobotany, philosophy, and art. Eli has a deep love of humor and stimulating ideas of all sorts, spending time outside of the garden reading, writing, and listening to music while residing at EcoVillage Ithaca. If you see him, ask him to share poetry or talk about the vegetable garden!
Lela Robinson, Horticulture Intern
Lela Robinson came to Ithaca Children’s Garden as a horticulture intern with a special interest in permaculture. She became interested in the topic after volunteering on a permaculture center in the Yucatan Peninsula where she was introduced to the work of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Lela is a rising junior at Cornell University where she is studying city and regional planning pursuing an interest in landscape architecture. In high school, Lela spent her summers as an intern for the Cincinnati Civic Garden Center educating youth in the city’s community gardens. When not out of doors Lela enjoys reading anything aside from a parking ticket and highly recommends David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas to anyone with an appreciation for gripping stories told in unorthodox ways.
Sheehan Gotsch, Communications Coordinator
Working as the Communications Coordinator at ICG, Sheehan hopes to share the purpose, passion, and play fostered by the Garden with the greater community.
She began her time in Ithaca by volunteering for local organic farms where she gained a greater appreciation for food systems and the importance of fostering sustainable local growth. Sheehan is currently studying Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. Her passion for the outdoors, as well as for health and well being, have been pillars of her life from a young age and she finds time to get outside by being a team member of Cornell Women’s Rowing, and by exploring Ithaca and the surrounding area, whenever she gets the chance.
Richard Lansdowne, Operations Manager
A recent addition to the staff, 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.
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. Leigh has a wide range of interests but at the core of them all is an appreciation for 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.
Mara NewRoots, Early Childhood Educator
Mara has worked with children at the Garden for 4 years, and has worked with children for 20 years in a variety of settings. She brings her deep experience as an educator, mother, naturalist, and human service worker to working with children at ICG as Assistant Director of Preschool Summer Camp and Lead Educator for the Garden's Playful Nature Explorers Preschool. She feels there is nothing more exciting than being outside exploring nature with children.
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 an 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.
Chelsea Coyle, Mentor/Playworker 6-12
The Garden is one of the most special places in the world to Chelsea, and she's so grateful to be back working with ICG. After serving as the Assistant Director for summer camp in 2015, this Summer she will be a part-time playworker while she studies to become a professional herbalist.
She studied Organic Agriculture and Environmental Education in college and has lived in Washington State off and on since then. Her favorite things in the world are spending time with friends and family, the farmers' markets, dancing samba, baking "treatsies" with different local honey varietals, and the ocean.
Teagan Todd, Mentor/Playworker 3-5 and Camp Admin Intern
Teagan Todd is a rising Junior at Cornell University. She studies English and is also working as an administrative intern at ICG's office this Summer. Teagan has previously served as an art docent for schoolchildren and has achieved great renown among the 3-12 demographic for her skills as a face-painter. When Teagan is not play-working, interning, commuting, or sleeping, she enjoys short but deeply contemplative walks on the beach. She also has a scar on her left foot that looks like a caterpillar. Its like... pretty cool.
Erin Grohe, Mentor/Playworker 6-12
Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Erin first came to Ithaca in pursuit of a Human Development degree from Cornell University. However, she quickly fell in love with the Ithaca community volunteering at Boynton Middle School, Cayuga Ridge Nursing Home, Streets Alive, and ICG. An avid travel enthusiast, Erin is (near) fluent in Spanish and recently spent her last semester studying in Singapore. Erin first began working with kids in her middle school years as a Sunday School and Safety Town instructor. She aspires to be a pediatric physician for a world relief agency such as Doctors without Borders. When not working with kids, Erin can be found dancing her toes off, running marathons, and driving her blue pickup.
Sierra Murray, Food Systems and Cooking Educator
Sierra grew up stomping and skipping through Tompkins County's streams, fields, forests, and lakes. She graduated from Cornell University in 2017 with a degree in Development Sociology and spent most of her college years developing and managing youth outreach and education programs with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. Following graduation, she worked with CCE in Erie County with Seed to Supper, a low-cost vegetable gardening program with high hopes to diminish food insecurity, before taking off to Hawaii to do a farming apprenticeship. Now Sierra spends her time working on dough recipes for the perfect grilled pizza and will head to Columbia University in the Fall to study Social Work in the Social Enterprise Administration program. She's looking to improve her salsa dancing prowess this Summer.
Sarah Saxon, Mentor/Playworker 6-12
Until Sarah fulfills her lifelong goal of becoming a cowboy/ice cream taster, she spends her Summers as a playworker at Ithaca Children's Garden eating any plant that looks edible, making secret hideouts in that one part of the Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone that no one's discovered yet, and getting very, very muddy. Sarah enjoys working with young people because they like making cardboard cities almost as much as she does, and because they never get tired of playing hide-and-seek. As well as being a play-worker, Sarah has been a nursery school teacher, loyal babysitter, and may very soon be the proud recipient of her very own bachelor's degree. Sarah hopes to one day find a hiding spot so good that she is never found, and to make even more caterpillar friends than last year (although the good ones always end up turning into butterflies).
Terrek Taylor, Mentor/Playworker 6-12
Terrek grew up in Ithaca's forests. To this day, he still feels most comfortable ankle-deep in mud with a head full of leaf litter. You might find Terrek in any of Ithaca's woods learning the "language of the forest," reading the silent stories of tree bark, or tracking the slow dance of tree behavior. He studies writing and environmental studies at Ithaca College and is ecstatic to be joining ICG for another year!
Doga Tekin, Mentor/Playworker 6-12
Doga is a fun gal who loves fungi. She grew up in Turkey and many of her most memorable childhood experiences are from playing in nature and farms in her grandparents' village. Here's a fun fact: her name, pronounced 'Doe-ah,' means nature in Turkish! She eventually ended up in the U.S. and here she acquired an everlasting admiration of fungi. She graduated from Cornell with minors in Mycology and Education and has taught about fungi and lead foraging trips for all ages in the Ithaca and surrounding areas. Her favorite thing about Ithaca Children's Garden is that it gives kids an opportunity to explore and develop a relationship with nature through collaboration. She is looking forward to helping the Garden's mission! When she is not around kids or mushrooms, you can find her playing Middle Eastern tunes in town with the local group Taksim.
Calvin VanDee, Mentor/Playworker 6-12
Calvin is a kind, energetic person who has recently graduated from high school. He has worked with ICG before, as part of the Teen Urban Farmers program, as a volunteer, and now as a playworker with the summer camp. He is excited to teach campers about the Garden and Biology, and is ready to learn from the campers as well. He is planning to study Environmental Biology at SUNY ESF once the Summer is over.
Harmony Williams, Mentor/Playworker 6-12
Spending all hours in the wild outdoors, wandering through forests, pondering trees, wading through rivers, building forts and secret places, and befriending all curious insects and animals was part of a daily routine in Harmony's early life. Having grown up home-schooled in Ithaca, NY, and working with children for nearly a decade, she then adventured abroad for two years, volunteering through the WWOOF program, visiting many farms and living with multiple communities (she is a mover, shaker, and dance-maker!). Now she is back as a returning playworker for another fabulous summer at the Garden. Harmony is so excited to be with ICG as she believes in the transformation power of humor, playfulness, and creativity. While in Ithaca, Harmony soaks in the Sun and eats as many fruits and veggies as she can. You can most often find her searching for wild raspberries or chasing waterfalls.
ICG Board of Directors
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.
Harriet Becker, Cofounder, 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.
Kathleen Downes, Board of Directors
Kathleen grew up in Staten Island, New York and received a B.S. from Cornell University and her Masters in Education from Columbia University. She has been a special education teacher for 25 years primarily working with preschool age children and their families. Previously a curriculum chair for the Ithaca City School District, she currently teaches at Caroline Elementary School in an integrated pre kindergarten class. She has traveled as an educational ambassador studying special education to Russia, Egypt, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Kathleen has three grown children who all graduated from Ithaca schools and she developed her passion for gardening while tending gardens with her children. She continues to develop and tend gardens with the children she teaches at Caroline and her interests involve education and gardening accessibility. She has been an Ithaca Children's Garden board member and board secretary for over two years.
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.
Mark Perry, Treasurer, 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.
Monika Roth, Cofounder, 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.
Adam Schaye, 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.
Sonja Skelly, Vice 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.
Kartik Sribarra, Board Secretary, 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.