Vol. 20, No. 15
May 3, 2001
Interest in junior gardeners growing in local schools
"It tickles!" "Mine are fighting," "It's trying to eat my hand." "I have a baby one." "Ooooh, it's wet!" "Can we keep them?"
These are some of the comments by students in Leonore Stone's third grade at McVey School who were, literally, having hands-on experience with red wriggler earthworms, and reactions varied from enthusiasm to wariness.
Earlier, Master Gardener Hette Francke had presented a program entitled "Give It to the Worms: Learn More About Composting" to all the McVey School third graders and introduced them to her friend, Cosmo Composting Worm. "This is my under-the-sink compost pile," she said, picking up a small bucket with a lid. "I put in it all the things like banana peels cabbage leaves and old grapesall this lovely stuff worms like to eat, and every few days I empty it on my outdoor compost pile," she said.
"What's the new word we learned today that we call things, like apple peels and set newspaper that can be composted?" she asked.
"Resources!" came the loud and clear answer from her audience.
"After the worms finish eating and digesting this we have wonderful rich compost for planting new bushes, tomatoes or trees. By composting we help Mother Nature," Francke said.
After her talk, the children went back to their classrooms for a close-up look and feel of the red wrigglers. Master Gardener trainees Maria Taylor, Clyde Roberts and Andrea Gula were in charge of the classroom presentation. They put down a plastic cloth on a table and then emptied a real can of worms on the table and invited the third graders to dig in and pick up a wriggler while they fielded questions.
At the end of the program, each class got a certificate and the children were given Junior Gardener certificates to take home with them.
"Give It to the Worms" is just one of the popular Junior Gardener school programs that the Master Gardeners, a part of the New Castle Country Cooperative Extension, are offering this year. Others include "The Magic of Soil," "Meadow/ Woodland Search for Insects," "Flowers that Fly" about butterflies, "Ag in the Classroom" about farming, "Taming the Wild Ivy," where students make small topiaries, and "Dandelions."
"The program has been very successful with 13 schools requesting 22 programs, which complement the Delaware Science Standards and the kits used in schools," Carol Browning, who with Martha Badick chairs the Junior Gardener Program, said. "We have received good feedback from the program and are planning a fall series for classrooms as well, beginning in October."
The Master Gardeners are celebrating their 15th year in Delaware, according to Jo Mercer, Cooperative Extension, who coordinates the program in New Castle County. There are currently close to 100 Master Gardeners in the county, who are volunteer educators. They offer advice on home lawns and gardens, teach courses and do other educational projects for schools like habitat trails and butterfly gardens.
For more information on the Master Gardeners program, call 831-2506. Teachers interested in school programs may call Browning at 368-2338 or Badick at 994-6171.
Photo by KATHY FLICKINGER