Marks-Monge holds one of the yard's resident chickens for Jemma Greer and Leonora Skeen to pet.
around the corner from us.
Both Ryan's kids and my kids
go to school there.”
FESTIVE, FUN, FACTS
The mood on this particular
evening was festive with an
anticipatory air. Thacker and
Marks-Monge build each class
around a particular plant and
this week’s discussion was
on the longan Dimocarpus
longan, a globular sugar bomb
similar in taste to its cousin
the lychee, which is native to
China but grows exceedingly
well in Brevard County.
After the plant of the week
introduction, the class
explored the yard's dozens
of food-producing trees and
bushes. Thacker leads the
class Pied Piper-like along the
U-shaped trail while Marks-
Monge brings up the rear and
keeps the stragglers focused.
The conversational lecture
was filled with facts.
“The longan is in the soap-
There are no doors, no walls, no windows
and no floor — just sunshine and sky,
greenery and earth.
Also missing are books on desks,
whiteboards and certainly, there are no
exams. Tasting, smelling, seeing and
touching are the lesson drivers and
the methods produce a gentle, organic
transfer of knowledge.
The students learn, for instance, that if
they care for a Jamaica cherry Muntingia
calabura, they will be rewarded with
handfuls of cotton candy berries.
Everything at the yard is a treat for the
senses, and that's intentional. Thacker
and Marks-Monge want children to be
in love with nature and have a practical,
working relationship with it. In Plant
School, the young ones taste the fruit,
learn how to say its name, learn its
propagation technique, sample a recipe
made from the fruit and take home a pot
in which to grow their own.
Plant education is a passion for Thacker,
whose own children, Julian, 8, and Zuri,
6, have absorbed the message and live it
daily. They surf, skate, ride bikes, harvest
and forage alongside their dad.
Marks-Monge, a mother of four and
a grandmother of one, relies on her
Costa Rican family history for real-life
experience working with medicinal
herbs. She learned ancient methods of
holistic healing and plant medicine from
her grandmother, who was the town
Thacker, who has a degree in journalism
and has worked extensively as a photographer,
sees a multitude of reasons
to engage young minds through handson
teaching. Chief among them is that
children who feel connected to nature are
more likely to grow up to be thoughtful
stewards of the land, he explained.
Already a favorite enrichment activity of
area homeschoolers, Banana River Yard
will soon be a destination for at least one
public school, Thacker said.
“We are going to be working with Surfside
Elementary this coming year, partnering
with their 4-H club and their PTO as
well,” he explained. “The school is right >>
88: SPACE COAST LIVING | SPACECOASTLIVING.COM
If you’re interested …
Banana River Yard
Address: 1301 S. Patrick Drive, Satellite Beach
For more information: Visit facebook.com/
bananariveryard or Instagram,
@banana_river_yard; send inquiries
or text to 786.303.413.
what a dragon eye,
aka longan, is.