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Friday, Jun. 9th 2023

A Glimpse of EMGs working with children

Garden Glimpses-The Children’s Program

What could you do with an empty two-liter bottle, some leaves, leftover veggies, and grass clippings? If you volunteered with The Children’s Program of MGGKC you could teach grade school children how to do composting during a STEM event at Kellybrook Elementary School.

The Children’s Program offers a unique opportunity for EMGs that differs from working in a more traditional partnership garden. The Children’s Program is entirely outreach; the purpose is to teach children gardening education using hands-on activities. These activities must be practical and mobile, as they are designed to go where the kids are. Activities generally focus on one or two specific concepts that are designed for ages ranging from three to twelve. The curriculum has been developed by EMGs over the past several years, including concepts like “Is it a fruit or vegetable?” and “Butterflies.” Inspiration for ideas often comes from gardening for kids’ websites, science lessons, and EMG ingenuity.

Activities are created with the necessary educational materials packed in totes ready to go to an event. Volunteers can quickly familiarize themselves with the material and be ready to present right away. Lyn Sorenson, program coordinator, and Debbie Johnson, co-coordinator, expressed a need for volunteers to design new concepts and fun activities for future Children’s Program events.

Speaking of volunteers, the EMGs I watched at the STEM event were having as much fun as the kids, and parents. One child listened intently as an EMG explained how composting worked using the two-liter bottle as a visual aid. He thoughtfully turned the bottle around, carefully looking at the layers of leaves, veggies, and grass. As another child approached, the boy turned and began to expertly explain composting to that child. Another child turned to her parent and declared that their family should start composting tonight.

Lyn and Debbie expressed that working with children in the past is not a requirement. What one needs to be a great volunteer in The Children’s Program is the ability to reach out and engage by demonstrating a love of gardening and sharing fun experiences. Every EMG in The Children’s Program that I spoke with expressed the satisfaction and joy they felt watching children light up as they learned. Lyn put it best when she explained that every interaction is different, but every child leaves with a smile and a greater understanding of a gardening concept.

The next big project for The Children’s Program is The Beanstalk Family Festival at The Kansas City Community Garden at Swope Park in September. This event reaches over 150 children and adults. Please sign up to volunteer for an upcoming event, propose a new activity idea, or both. As an EMG, we are dedicated to educating the public about gardening. What better way to educate than teaching children about gardening, and helping them understand their place in creating a better environment for tomorrow?

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University of Missouri Extension Master Gardener Program