Get educated

Summer youth program can teach kids to love gardening

May 31, 2007

 

BY MARIA SOBCZAK AND BARBARA HALEY

VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS

EDITED BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON

 

Are you interested in a grade-school-age relative or friend of yours attending college this summer to learn more about Mother Nature in a hands-on learning environment?

 

You still have time to sign up youngsters for a summer college course - at Victoria College's Kids College 2007. At least this is so for the Junior Master Gardeners (JMG) Camp, which will take place next week, June 4-7, for grades three to six and the following week, June 11-14, for grades seven to nine. The camp sessions will be held at Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG), 333 Bachelor Drive, Victoria Regional Airport. Applications will be accepted until Friday for the first week's class and until June 5 for the second week. Classes will be held even if there are just a few students signed up.

 

EDUCATING YOUTH

 

From whom did you learn gardening: a parent, grandparent or a dedicated teacher or youth leader?

 

One role of the master gardeners, as stated in the official program handbook, is youth education, which melds perfectly with this summer's course at VEG. The master gardeners are very excited about this educational opportunity for area children because VEG will be in its most prime condition since it first opened in 2003. The expansion project of the gardens will be complete with its grand opening the weekend in between these two class weeks on Sunday, June 10. There will be lots of activity both before and after that celebration with 19 new gardens being opened for public viewing for the first time and a dedication of the new Military Honor Garden with a flag-raising ceremony. What a perfect time to take a summer class at VEG!

 

PHOTO BY NANCY KRAMER/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER

Kids from the Boys and Girls Club in a previous Junior Master Gardener course at the Victoria Educational Gardens learn from master gardeners Jerome Janak, left, and Extension Agent Joe Janak that peanuts are not true nuts. Instead, they are raised underground, under these lush green legume plants.

 

 

 

Topics Each Day

 

For the first week, the topics will be straight from the "JMG Handbook and Teacher's Guide." Each day, there will be discussions and activities related to that day's topic.

 

On Monday, the question may be, "What do beetles, sunflowers, cows and you have in common?" or "Did you know that the water you used to brush your teeth this morning may have been some of the same water that rained on your great-great-grandparents' heads, or that dinosaurs drank millions of years ago? How could that be?"

 

Tuesday could find one being asked, "Have you ever imagined what our world would be like without plants?" Several lab experiments will produce answers to the what, when, where and why of plant needs.

 

Wednesday will have everyone exploring the wonderful world of insects, and Thursday concludes with the ins and outs of planting a garden and why growing fruits and nuts is not at all the same as planting and harvesting vegetables.

 

The second week, the topics will be geared to older students, and more challenging questions and activities will be presented.

 

Program Beginnings

 

Junior Master Gardeners is an international horticulture and environmental science program offered to youth of all ages. This nine-year-old program is the brainchild of Texas Cooperative Extension network. Those folks planted the initial seed that has now germinated into a premier children's gardening program.

 

According to the Web site, http://jmgkids.us/, the JMG program is offered in more than 40 states with 500 chapters in Texas alone. More than 400 activity options are offered in eight different areas including plant growth and development; soils and water; ecology and environmental horticulture; insects and diseases; landscape horticulture; fruits and nuts; vegetables and herbs; and life skills and career exploration. The JMG program topics mirror the Master Gardener Certification course topics offered annually by Victoria County Extension for the past 10 years.

 

Certification

 

This summer program is simply an introduction of the student to the art and science of gardening. The complete and full program can be done with a school class, an after-school program, with home school groups or any group of interested young gardeners, by providing additional topics and activities that help them develop leadership and life skills to become good citizens within their families, schools and communities.

 

When a child participates in the full program, he or she can become a certified junior master gardener after selecting and accomplishing leadership/community service projects following the study of each chapter of the handbook.

 

This educational opportunity is being made possible through a collaboration of Victoria County Master Gardener Association with The Victoria College and the Kid's College enrollment. All the children need is a chance to be exposed to caring individuals who have a passion for gardening and the outdoors - and an opportunity for them to meet.

 

So, come and join us for a fun-filled, educational experience for your own child or friend to learn about ways to have adventures in nature all summer long. And perhaps begin a love of gardening with respect for nature that will carry them through the rest of their lives.

 

Registration Information

 

For registration and fee information, follow the link for Kids' Camps Schedule on The Victoria College's Web site at www.victoriacollege.edu/ce/schedule.html. Registration for this academic and specialty camp can be accomplished by visiting The Victoria College Admissions and Records Office located in the Administration Building, Room 107, or the Continuing Education Department in the Continuing Education Center, Room 208.

 

The child's Social Security number, along with parent's or guardian's signature is required. Summer office hours are Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call 361-582-2528 at the college for more information about the JMG camp. Remember that classes will be held even if there are just a few signed up. Make contact today to register.

 

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.