Within the Teaching Gardens at Saint Michael’s College (VT), members of the campus and local community can find a Word Garden nestled among the other offerings. This special garden is made up of movable words, etched on various pieces of stone, that are scattered upon a bed of pebbles. Users may create their own poetry using the stones.

“The possibilities are up to you: create poetry, leave messages, start a discussion, protest injustice, or speak gibberish (yes, we have this word in the garden). Above all, leave your intellectual footprint for others to enjoy,” explains the Word Garden site. It was created by Mark Lubkowitz of the biology faculty and Valerie Bang-Jensen of education, reported Saint Michael’s College News. They continue to curate the garden, with support from the Facilities Department, the college grounds crew, administrators and more.

Stone artist Chris Cleary created the words in the garden, along with stone benches throughout the Teaching Gardens. He can be contacted by those wishing to donate new words to the garden.

A haiku contest is held in the Word Garden each year, according to the News, with the winner getting to choose a new word to be donated to the garden. Online, users can practice creating their own sentences with available Word Garden offerings such as gnomes, precious, close, story, enthusiastic, cause, Jedi, rumble and many more.

And during a gathering to honor an English department colleague who died, members of the community chose words in his honor to donate to the garden. Entries included:

  • “Confabulation” – a word he created for First-Year Seminar faculty meetings
  • “Converse” – because of his signature footwear and love of conversations
  • “Swish” and “Athlete” – due to his enjoyment of sports
  • “Huzzah!” – that he would use to recognize accomplishments and good news

The campus Teaching Gardens serve as an outdoor learning laboratory and also include an arboretum, a Books in Bloom children’s literature garden, a Native Plants of Vermont garden and the International Garden.

Sources: “3 Reasons to Choose St. Mike’s If You Love… Being Outdoors,” 6/23/21; Saint Michael's College News, 10/22/21; The Teaching Gardens, Center for the Environment, Saint Michael’s College

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