The Junior Master Gardener mission statement is “To grow kids by igniting a passion for learning, success, and service through a unique gardening education.”
If you have a child, grandchild, niece or nephew or know any child who has shown any type of interest in nature or growing things, this program is for them.
In today’s world of computer games, cable television and cell phones more and more kids are staying inside the house instead of getting outside in the fresh air.
This program combines learning along with fun activities to teach the children about gardening and horticulture at a level that they can understand. The majority of the programs across the country are tailored to 3rd-5th graders.
The young gardeners get a sense of ownership as they apply what they have learned to their home gardens as well as gardens planted at schools, churches and parks.
Part of successfully completing the course is a requirement of community service hours. Much of this time is directed toward senior citizens and the disabled who are unable to tend their own gardens.
Educators who have observed students in this program have reported seeing marked improvement in grades and social skills over others who did not become JMG’s. They also report better behavior as well as respect for nature.
The programs are usually taught by local Master Gardeners or volunteers who love to share their gardening knowledge with others. The classes are held in schools, churches, community centers, or parks.
Horticulturalist Dorothy Woodson who was one of the JMG instructors in Fort Worth, Texas, commented “When you plant a little seed in a cup in the classroom you see it grow, that’s one thing. When you plant a seed in the garden and you actually eat the green bean, broccoli or lettuce, your self esteem soars.”
The curriculum covers the following subjects.
What plants need to grow is one of the first topics covered. The difference between annual, biennial, perennials and bulbs are discussed.
Soil types, organic materials, and fertilizers are explained.
Composting as well as vermicomposting is actually demonstrated during the program.
Gathering material for composting
Assembling a compost bin
The water cycle is explained. Precipitation, condensation, evaporation are defined and how they can help or hurt the garden.
Not all insects are bad; beneficial insects can help to control the “bad bugs”.
How to identify and treat them.
Programs are identified on how the JMG's can help their communities.
Some of these programs are; starting a garden at your school, conducting a tree identification walk through a city park, helping to set up a city wide cleanup, or adopt a park to landscape.
I have a granddaughter who completed the program 2 years ago. She loves to garden and is an avid reader regardingn garden subjects. She is in the process of completing a project for her schools science fair. The topic? Vermicomposting a subject she first learned about in the JMG program.
To find out if and where your local program is located contact your local extension office. Better yet why not volunteer to help out in the program.
A garden built by JMG's at a school
Photos courtesy of Texas A&m and Michigan State University Extension