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berry family, which doesn’t sound
very appealing but these are delicious,”
Thacker explained. “They’re
also called dragon eyes. That’s what
longan actually means in the Chinese
The tour is one component of Plant
School and is meant to be highly interactive.
The children were engaged,
with some asking questions while
others spouted facts from past classes.
The group stopped frequently to
pick and eat fruit right from the trees.
After the tour came a snack made of
the fruit of the week. For this one,
Marks-Monge chose to bake a vegan
macaroon topped with a longan.
“I used my vegan coconut cookie
dough, which is coconut flour, a
little bit of coconut oil,” she said.
“The longans are really sweet, so I
chopped some into the dough for
sweetness and put a longan on top.”
Jeremy and Amanda Greer of Cocoa
Beach have been bringing their
son, Sam, 8, and daughter, Jemma,
6, to the weekly class for about six
months. They met Thacker and
Marks-Monge at the Satellite Beach
Farmers Market at Pelican Beach,
where some of the yard’s bounty is
sold each Thursday.
“We went to the farmers market and
they were there,” Amanda Greer
explained. “Our son is on the autism
spectrum and his special interest is
the scientific names of plants and he
and Ben just started talking.”
An invitation ensued and the
experience has been so positive that
she features the Plant School on her
homeschooling website, Trees and
“It’s been good for our family,”
Amanda Greer said. “Of all their enrichment
activities for homeschooling,
this is their favorite.”
“My son absolutely looks forward
to class,” she continued. “He likes
it when they choose what plant
they’re going to do and he looks forward
to getting the announcement
for it. It’s different every week but it
follows a structure, so it’s comfortable
Jeremy Greer agreed.
“It’s kind of free-form but with
enough structure so there is guidance,”
he said. “The kids absolutely
love the class.”
It takes a special kind to speak to
Marks-Monge offers longan macaroons to the class.
Catherine Chickowski bites through the woody skin of the longan
to reveal the juicy fruit within.
A young student makes a popsicle-stick marker for her longan pot.
children without speaking down to them and
Thacker possesses that ability, along with a Zen
mindset that exudes calm amid chaos.
“I try to keep the experience as positive as possible
for everyone, including me,” Thacker said
after class. “The plants in the yard are there for
everyone to enjoy, especially the kids. We are
thrilled to be able to provide those experiences,
as long as everybody is respectful of the garden
and each other,” he explained.