Nurturing community while moving towards sustainability

I have experienced it many times in five countries, on three continents, blending multiple languages, cultures, and generations. I have felt the power and potential while working with indigenous peoples, schools, neighborhoods, communities, and families. I have shared in their celebrations and contributed my tears and shivers of gratitude and excitement. A Growing Dome build is an excellent example of the power of possibilities and a profound expression of hope for humankind’s future.

In many ways, similar to a traditional barn raising or a Habitat for Humanity house project, a Growing Dome build brings people together on deeper levels of sharing and contribution, building a sense of shared pride and accomplishment while creating something of substantial and lasting value for the community. My two most recent build experiences were dramatically different on the surface and yet oh so similar in all the ways that matter.

In March of this year, I traveled with a team of American youth on an insight trip to San Jose, Costa Rica to help the local community build a Growing Dome. The dome will be the center of a horticultural therapy program for a school that serves children with special needs, including blindness and mental retardation. While the students, because of their disabilities, could not participate hands-on in this project, their expressions of love, wonder, and joy inspired the blended team of builders. Despite the challenges of speaking different languages, after two days of high-spirited cooperation, construction, and cultural exchange, the completed Growing Dome was covered with a colorful parachute in anticipation of the unveiling and community celebration to follow. It took the slow procession of students, teachers, and caregivers almost an hour to assemble around the colorful Growing Dome. When all were peacefully present, a visibly proud older student pulled off the parachute and a gasp and cheer arose from the crowd. For me personally, this moment ranked way up on my list of emotional and joyous experiences. And that was just the beginning, as the new Growing Dome will continue to nourish, nurture, and inspire students for a generation and beyond.

Geodesic Greenhouse in front of a school on the grass next to a playground
Flagstaff Academys unique outdoor learning space

My next Growing Dome supervising experience was the dramatic culmination of a three-year process to construct a giant Growing Dome for a Colorado science and technology-focused charter school, Flagstaff Academy. This experience was enriched and enlivened by the engaged participation of students, former students, teachers, moms, dads, parents of future students, and the visionary principal with his infant son observing the show from the safety of a backpack. Everyone participated; kids as young as 7 and moms that perhaps had never engaged in construction took an active and contributing role alongside skilled builders to construct an impressive and beautiful greenhouse for the school. This remarkable 33′ Growing Dome will become a living laboratory and classroom, demonstrating, on so many levels, the potential to realize the next human imperative and develop a sustainable model for graceful and abundant living in our collective future. “Yes we can”, is the powerful statement made by the Flagstaff community through their awesome Growing Dome. And as I said before, “This is just the beginning of a remarkable journey toward a future that is abundant and beautiful.”

On day two of the Flagstaff build, a group of leaders from The Denver Green School came to observe and discuss the Growing Dome experience and lifestyle with those of us already engaged in the experience. They departed inspired, energized and with a sense of urgency to create a similar Growing Dome opportunity for their school community. The pace of fundraising has been accelerated with the goal of a fall build established. And so the Growing Dome’s global movement continues to expand… and not a generation too soon.

Sharing the vision of a future that is just, equitable, and sustainable.

Author: Allan Werthan, founder of Global Children’s Gardens

Visit the Flagstaff Academy Greenhouse Classroom and their Facebook page.

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Kyle joined the Growing Spaces team in 2015, and enjoys being involved in all the exciting projects and developments happening around here!I graduated from Pagosa Springs High School in 2009 and moved to Gunnison, Colorado to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies. After graduating from Western State Colorado University, I moved back to my home town Pagosa Springs. Since moving back home in 2013, I have been working to develop a farm in Arboles. In my spare time, one may find me backpacking in the wilderness, cruising on a mountain bike, slacklining in the park, or skiing Wolf Creek. I also enjoy creating art when I am not outdoors. The mediums that I enjoy working with are yarn, canvas and paint, and clay. I have been experimenting with aquapoinics and am always excited to share knowledge on the subject with others. I joined the Growing Spaces team in 2015, and enjoy being involved in all the exciting projects and developments happening around here!


  • Nice article. The experience of building and revealing must truly be an emotional and joyous one – one that I would like to experience, too. What are the steps of becoming a certified Growing Dome Installer?

    • Hi Steve, We’ll be in touch with information about becoming an installer by email. Thanks so much for your lovely feedback.

  • The Harvest Center is a non-profit in Woodland Park, CO (8600 ft altitude) dedicated to promoting local food and energy production. We see our 22 ft dome from Growing Spaces as a perfect working solution for achieving our goals. Little did we know that buying a greenhouse from Growing Spaces would lead to lifetime friendships with the owners, installers, staff, reps, and fellow greenhouse owners! Allan was one of the three installers of our dome… we’ve been steadfast colleagues since then. We’re also partners with Claudia and Rick Stover in an effort to show people living in the mountains that we can grow food all year!

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