This summer, we had the pleasure of hosting two groups of potential gardeners at The Blue Jay’s Perch. We shared fun and informative afternoons with two groups of 2nd to 4th graders from summer camps at the Waverly YMCA.
It was great to see so many kids with already established interests in the plants, gardening and the varieties and fruits and vegetables they encounter regularly. A tour of the garden brought out sounds of recognition (cucumbers! strawberries!) mixed with fear (bees!); we are delighted to teach and learn from kids so eager get involved in the activities we had chosen for our sessions. We used illustrated posters to accompany our hands-on learning in the garden; needless to say we had many helpful volunteers willing to hold up the posters!
During our first session we covered the six major plant parts and each of their functions. The scavenger hunt that followed allowed several of the kids to identify and draw the plant parts they had learned. Next came a brief lesson on two kinds of seeded plants and the different methods of seed dispersal. Having learned about seeds, we moved on to a planting activity. We planted tomato, cucumber seedlings, beans and carrot seeds. We began our second session with the topic of harvesting through recalling familiar crops harvested in each season here in Maryland. We then learned about some important animal species often found in soil that contribute to the biodiversity and overall health of the soil. The kids were amazed by the fact that earthworms have five “hearts.” We then spoke about the composition of soil, its purpose, and how the term “soil” differs from “dirt.” We showed them how they can use a mason jar to measure the ratio of silt, salt, and clay in their soil and reminded them of the importance of organic matter in gardening/farming soil.
It was very hot both days, so drinks were in order: lemonade that we infused with mint harvested from the garden. Some kids felt a little uncomfortable about mint leaves floating around in their cups, but for the most part, they enjoyed the taste. So much so that just about the whole group wanted to harvest some mint themselves to take home to their family. The kids also enjoyed a tasting of green onions and (more) mint. The chocolate mint was a hit! Some had never tasted green onion and were pleasantly surprised. A couple even took some home with them.
Our sessions concluded with everyone helping to water the plots. Once the hose came out, many of the kids took advantage by letting themselves get soaked, making for a happy and cool closure to our lessons.
-Hans, Amélie, and Raychel