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 is inspired by permaculture, playwork and is dedicated to cultivating organizational sustainability, nourishing connections to food and 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 how ICG can become part of your life too!
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!
Sheehan Gotsch, Marketing and Communications Intern
Sheehan grew up in Beverly, Massachusetts where she spent much of her time at the beach, hiking with her family, running cross country, or working and horseback riding at a nearby stable. Her passion for the outdoors, as well as for health and well being, have been pillars of her life ever since. Working as a communications intern at ICG, Sheehan hopes to share these joys 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 but finds time to get outside by being a member of the women’s rowing team and exploring Ithaca and the surrounding area, whenever she gets the chance.
Jamie Johnson, Lead Playworker
As Ithaca Children's Garden's Lead Playworker, Jamie maintains the Hand-on-Nature Anarchy Zone, trains new staff on the playwork approach, plans events like International Mud Day and promotes nature-based programming in Tompkins County. Originally from the Ithaca area, Jamie graduated from Cornell in 2014 and is a nature photographer, a gardener, a hiker and a biker. He can generally be found in the garden during the summer months and is happy to answer any questions you may have about the playwork approach.
Richard Lansdowne, Operations Manager
A recent addition to the staff, Richard's interest in the study of play drew him to attend of 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.
Elaine Springer, Communications Coordinator and Tough Turtle Event Director
Elaine came to ICG in January 2016 to take on the roll of Tough Turtle Event Director, and became the Communications Coordinator in May 2016. She has a background in web and graphic design, social media marketing, communications, and event planning, which she is always weaving together in her various endeavors for non-profit organizations.
Elaine is passionate about local living, the environment, and sustainability. She and her family live in a house in the woods, surrounded by ponds, 2 vegetable gardens, and several flower gardens.
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.
Edwin Malone, Board of Directors
Ed is a native of Ithaca and lives near the Cayuga Medical Center with his wife Jeanne and his 2 children, Sydney and Isaac. He works at BorgWarner in the human resources department in a career that began 8 months after graduating high school, and has continued for over 25 years. He first became aware of ICG when he visited Gaia with his wife and children. It was amazing to see his children's joy and wonder as they climbed and explored in a natural environment. Ed wants others to have similar experiences. As a wheelchair user, he hopes to improve accessibility so that everyone can enjoy all the wonderful areas and activities ICG has to offer.</p.
Monika Roth, Cofounder
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 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.