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 awesome 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, were not able to 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 processional of students, teachers and care givers 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.

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 principle with his infant son observing the show from the safety of a back pack. 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 on into 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, Global Children’s Gardens

Visit the Flagstaff Academy Greenhouse Classroom and their Facebook page.


  • 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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