Master Gardener: Growing good kids |

Master Gardener: Growing good kids

Jo Smith
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Routt County Master Gardeners have sponsored a Junior Master Gardener summer program for seven years. This year’s gardeners attend the Boys and Girls Club of Steamboat. Every other Tuesday during the summer, a group of 10, third and fourth graders, venture out to learn about gardening in the Yampa Valley.

During the first session, the kids planted a raised bed at the Yampa River Botanic Park. Due to the late planting date, short season crops, such as spinach, lettuce, radishes, cilantro and peas, were sown. Kids investigated seed anatomy and designed plant stakes to label seeds planted. Seedlings have appeared, and the next visit will entail a bit of thinning and weeding.

The second outing found the gardening club at Bear Park on the Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs campus. Tina Evans, professor of Sustainability Studies, greeted the junior gardeners at the gate off Crawford Avenue. Tina led the kids on a walk through the outdoor gardens, describing the gardening philosophy of permaculture and how it is practiced on site. The kids enjoyed a tour of the large, newly installed greenhouse. They were fascinated by the healthy plants thriving in this environment. The junior gardeners then helped build a cardboard and mulch trail around the perimeter of the shaded area.

For the third session, the group will meet back at the Yampa River Botanic Park to tend to the garden and discover the power of the flower. Kids will dissect flowers, learn about plant reproduction and use flower parts to classify plants. Art materials and instruction will be provided to give students an opportunity to draw and paint their favorite flowers.

Todd Hagenbuch, CSU Extension director, has promised a walking tour of trees, bushes and other urban vegetation issues around downtown Steamboat for the fourth session. Students will collect leaves and use solar print paper to “save” their specimens.

At the final outing in mid-August, the young gardeners will harvest the raised bed at the Yampa River Botanic Park and discover ways of preserving plants — lavender sachets, mint tea bags, dried flower cards and other ways to enjoy the garden throughout the year.

A cadre of Routt County Master Gardeners provide their expertise to the participants. Staff at the Boys and Girls Club provide supervision and assistance. The Junior Master Gardening program is committed to helping young people become good gardeners and good citizens so they can make positive contributions to their community, school and family.

Jo Smith, master gardener class of 2013, is a former science educator.

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