Inspiring Speakers

The American Horticultural Society is proud to introduce its speakers for the 2022 National Children & Youth Garden Symposium.

Keynotes by Lily Urmann with Rosanna Ayers and Carolyn Schuyler will expand on this year’s theme of nature as healer, teacher, and mentor. Meredith Henne Baker will welcome attendees to Richmond with a historical perspective on youth engagement by Virginia’s garden clubs.


Learning from Nature and the Importance of Biomimicry in Education Spaces
Wednesday, July 13
Lily Urmann, Visiting Lecturer of Biomimicry at Pratt Institute with Rosanna Ayers, Director of Youth Education at The Biomimicry Institute

When facing a design challenge, ask yourself, what would nature do? Or rather, what does nature do? Biomimicry is the impactful practice of learning from nature’s forms, processes, and systems to inspire life-friendly design. The incredible diversity of plants and animals that have survived and thrived on Earth for millions of years have already solved many of the challenges we are currently facing. Introducing young people to biomimicry is especially powerful as it connects them deeper with the natural world, fosters an appreciation for life around us, develops curiosity, and encourages collaboration.Lily will lay the groundwork for what biomimicry looks like in action and how to facilitate biomimicry learning through engaging approaches and activities. Rosanna Ayers, the Director of Youth Education at the Biomimicry Institute, will join in a recorded video to present an introduction to the Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge. Join us in exploring the intricacies of biomimicry and what educators can do to open students’ eyes to the wisdom of nature.

Lily UrmannLily Urmann received her Master’s in Biomimicry at Arizona State University, and Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies at The University of California, Santa Cruz. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on “Integrating Biomimicry Into Higher Education”, which kickstarted her journey in the biomimicry and education space. Lily was the Program Coordinator at the ASU Biomimicry Center, where she helped to design and launch one of the world’s first undergraduate certificates in biomimicry. Lily is currently a Visiting Instructor at Pratt Institute where she teaches a course she created titled “Biology for Biomimicry”. Lily shares the wonders of biomimicry with diverse audiences through community workshops, professional offerings with Biomimicry Frontiers, an after-school nature program in Denver, and her podcast “Learning from Nature”. Lily’s ultimate passion lies at the intersection of biomimicry, place-based experiential education, and engaging change-agents in this exciting field.

Rosanna AyersRosanna Ayers has a Master of Education in Leadership and School Development, with an emphasis on Next Generation Science Standards. She teaches graduate-level integrated science courses for teacher candidates at a university. Rosanna is the Director of Youth Education at the Biomimicry Institute where she directs the Youth Design Challenge and other educational programs in support of increasing the scope of biomimicry in education.

Happier in the Garden: Parks for Mental Health Promotion
Thursday, July 14
Carolyn Schulyer, Founder and Director, Wildrock

The pandemic has elevated awareness of the need for green spaces for stress relief, but how do gardens and parks go a step further to promote themselves as community mental health resources?  Epidemic rates of depression and anxiety point to the need to connect people to restorative green spaces, but park program planners without mental health backgrounds may be unsure of responsible ways to promote nature as a therapeutic resource. Wildrock’s founder and director, a psychotherapist and environmental educator, will address the practicalities of promoting green spaces as therapeutic spaces while emphasizing accessibility and inclusion as primary values.

Carolyn Schuyler
is the founder and director of Wildrock, a non-profit nature play and discovery center in the Blue Ridge foothills. Wildrock’s programs serve a broad and diverse audience. A psychotherapist with a speciality in trauma, Carolyn works to support visitors in accessing the healing benefits of a reciprocal relationship with the natural world. Wildrock’s grounds invite playful exploration, creative and imaginative self-expression, and quiet self reflection. Stewardship projects on the property invite practical opportunities to give back to the natural world.

Meredith BakerVirginia’s Garden Clubs: Growing Conservationist Kids
Tuesday, July 12 Pre-Symposium Reception
Meredith Henne Baker, Virginia Humanities Fellow
Library of Virginia

Put aside that pearls and tea party stereotype: Virginia’s garden club women cultivated generations of conservation-minded children. From their founding in the 1920s, Virginia’s garden clubs taught students about plants and environmentalism with activist zeal. Efforts included statewide conservation essay contests, field-based academic nature camps, and garden therapy for disabled young people. Clubs founded by Black women partnered with HBCUs and state extension programs to create statewide junior garden clubs and further community horticultural education. Learn how garden clubs cultivated young environmentalists, from working alongside children in city clean-ups to showcasing children’s arrangements at flower shows.

Meredith Henne Baker was recently a Virginia Humanities Fellow at the Library of Virginia. She is writing a book about the remarkable impact of Virginia’s gardening women on the state’s landscape and policies. Baker’s research is also contributing to a statewide, multi-site commemoration of the 90th anniversary of Virginia’s Black women’s garden clubs in 2022.  An educator, independent scholar, and award-winning writer of Virginia history, Baker lives in the Richmond area.