The curious child at your knee, watching your hands move, asking questions, leaning in to see what you’re digging at, or what you’re looking at inside that flower bud – touching, smelling, eating - that’s how children begin their relationship with gardening.
When they aren’t right down in the dirt with you, they are also learning all about science and nature in school and in after school activities, too.
One school has a junior gardener program for second grade boy and girls. Working with the classroom teacher, our club member volunteers from our Youth Activities Committee execute an age appropriate curriculum once a month. The topics each month include seeds, pollination, birds, animals, the seasons, crafts, and culminates with a floral design project in time for the children to bring home for Mother’s Day.
As well received as our programs are, I cannot discount the joy our club members receive working on our Youth and Horticulture Therapy committees. They are probably the most popular committees our members sign up for each club year, and probably one third of our club’s active membership are involved in these programs.
There are many ways garden clubs can get a Youth Activities committee started. With the many competing after-school activities, junior garden clubs might not be practical in your community. Asking around, I got a good idea what other clubs are doing. Partnership with organizations like local schools, libraries, Pre-K schools, PTA’s, and Scouting is a good start. The Girl Scouts has a native plant merit badge that would be a great opportunity for club members to get involved in. Clubs can also offer an age appropriate floral design program. Partnering with a school or a library that has a children’s garden is also a great opportunity to apply our knowledge and experience in the garden. It also creates an opportunity to include a Youth section in your next flower show.
Most school districts have a volunteer liaison that will work with you to find a school with teachers happy to incorporate a junior gardener type program into their lesson plan. It might be more practical to do a monthly or quarterly gardening program, depending on the size of your club. A Youth initiative in your club can easily blend with your Plant America initiatives, too.
National Garden Clubs, Inc. offers lots of information and support to clubs that want to initiate or restart their footprint in the community with a Youth oriented program. I can’t think of a better way to foster and enrich children’s lives than being in a garden club that’s a go-to organization in your community. Here’s a link to NGC’s Youth activities page. As you develop your curriculum, keep in mind that NGC offers two children’s books that would be a great addition. Click ->here<-
for more information.
I also recommend my friend Sharon Lovejoy’s Camp Granny for project ideas and activities you can do with your junior gardeners – or your children, grandchildren, and even the children on your street.
Feel free to leave a comment and share what your Club’s Youth Activities projects entail. All commenters will be eligible to win a copy of Camp Granny. The drawing will close December 20, 2018.
Thea McGinnis is a gardener and writer, blog mistress, and a member of District III's Rock Spring Garden Club in Arlington, Virginia.
Photography by Sarah Farr