This year we have tried to do a few things differently with the kids by treating them more like students instead of “farmhands.”  They are learning math (measurements) and science while working.  And I would have to say that the kids have taken to our new approach very well.  They are bright and very eager to learn about the world that is in and around the garden.

We have had “in-the-field” lectures about the bugs and insect pests and how they interact in the garden…the positive and negative roles that they may play.  The kids have enjoyed these sessions so much that we begin each session at the garden with a Bug Alert, where they and the volunteers examine each plant for unwanted visitors.  It was fun to watch them scramble from one raised bed to another looking for cabbage loopers or worms, their eggs and potato beetles, etc.  There are shouts of “I’ve got one” or “let me have it” as the kids aggressively take part in this fun exercise.  It is almost sad when they run out of plants to check.  We have also printed out literature and pictures of the bugs they search for so that they will have something to reference in the future.

Another thing we are doing this year is that we have given every child a plant that they can take home to grow there.  We have given them tomato plants of several varieties as well as a couple different types of pepper plants.  It gives us all, the adult volunteers, quite a bit of joy to see the kids embrace the program to the point that they want to take it home with them.  We make sure to tell the kids to try to use the skills and knowledge that they are getting at the garden with their plants.  Hopefully, they will be able to enjoy their homegrown plants if or when they mature.  Additionally, we have started to pass out recipes for dishes that the kids can make with their parents.  The recipes reflect what is being grown in the garden.  Our purpose with this activity is to increase the parent’s awareness of what we are doing at the garden and in doing so encouraging them to get more involved.  Plus, anything that encourages quality time spent between parents and their kids is a good thing!

Last week we added another element to our “field lessons” when we instituted a seed-starting program for the fall planting.  Rather than assign a leader, we let them choose one of their peers to handle and administrate the program.  The leader was giving the task of distributing seeds to her fellow gardeners (they were able to choose what seeds they wanted).  She gave them each a peat pellet (the growing medium) and a cup (mini-pot) along with instructions as to how to set everything up and maintain the plant from seed to set.  The surprising thing for me was that I only had to explain the system to her once.  Her ongoing duties require for her to monitor how her fellow gardeners are doing and help them if they have problems getting their seeds started.

One of the things I have noticed as the kids make their selections is that they are not always asking for tomato plants and seeds.  Their interest, surprisingly, includes plants like broccoli, peppers of any type, melons and squash.  Oh, kids being kids, they have asked for the unusual and the impossible like apple, lemon or banana seeds, not knowing how long it would take to grow or considering the fact that some of these plants don’t even grow here.  The look on their face when we tell them that the things they love can’t be grown here is one of surprise and is really kind of cute and neat.

All of this leads me to say how much I am enjoying working with the kids.  I was not as directly involved with them last year as I am now.  Truth be told, I definitely missed out.  I can’t believe how much fun I am now having.  It is easy to see that these kids are looking to be trusted with more responsibilities.  And as a result, they feel more empowered to claim a larger share of the garden for themselves.  Every day the garden becomes more theirs and when they are there, they work it…not work at it.  And when somebody or something (remember the insects) disrespects their efforts or damages their work they are truly upset.  They have given themselves the power to be upset when bad things happen to something that they all can call their own. 

These kids have given themselves the right to learn and have fun while doing work.  Trust + Responsibility = Empowerment!  I don’t think that Einstein could have formulated it any better.

I would personally like to thank our sponsors Michigan First Credit Union (Participating Sponsor) and Snelling Staffing Solutions (Founding Sponsor) for making it possible to provide the learning materials, seeds, planting mediums, grow cups and pots for Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners.


Stay tuned for…Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners Go To Market!


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