Sharing my passion for gardening and cooking is one of my favorite jobs, so of course the after-school gardening programs have been a delightful change from the doldrums of office life.
The students at Polk Central were so excited, that all 70 + of them wanted to participate. The large youth to educator ratio has been both challenging and invigorating, and is a learning process with a sharp curve. In the past I have always worked with small groups, this allows for a lot of guided hands-on activities and explorations. Working with such a large group has pushed me to go beyond my comfort level and throw out some old tactics.
Over the past few months we have hosted our very own “Cooking Show” for the kids. Alex and I donned homemade tissue paper chef hats and spoke in silly accents while preparing seed and nut bars. The energy bars were a hit with the kids, their teachers, and their parents! Our goal is to introduce the students to how great healthy food can taste, and also provide recipes that made with affordable and environmentally sound ingredients for their parents to recreate.
Gardening in winter???
The gardening side of the program has been ready to gear up, and sadly the winter has not been very obliging. We lost some starts to the snow days, because without students to water them, the plants withered away. (Thankfully, I thought ahead, and planted extras.) However, with failure comes learning, and comparing the two sets of plants will show students how plants need light, water, and maintenance to survive.
Let’s just get outside…
This week we took the students out on a nature hike, in hopes that a bit of fresh air would help to calm them down. The large group was a bit overwhelming as we trekked through paths lined with overgrown blackberry brambles, and barren trees, but the students were engaged! As we were leaving I overheard a student telling her friend they should harvest fresh pine leaves to make tea with, not use the old ones they picked up on the trail. (If you didn’t know pine needle tea is very high in Vitamin C).
It is surprising what the students will pick up, even in the chaos of questions and explorations.
Teach, Learn, Repeat…
I always leave the school in a whirl-wind. It is like voluntarily walking into a tornado and then stepping out into the calm after the storm. I’ve survived, I’ve learned, and I’m thirsty for more adventure.
Until next time….
Interested in Youth Gardening or Outdoor Education??
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