Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Junior Master Gardeners in Routt County by Jo Smith

Summer of 2017 will mark the third season of the Junior Master Gardner program. In collaboration with Routt County Master Gardeners and the Yampa River Botanic Park, four Junior Master Gardening workshops will be offered for 3rd through 5th graders. The Junior Master Gardener program was developed by Texas A&M Agri Life Extension Service. It is modeled after the successful Master Gardener program and offers horticultural and environmental science education through fun and creative activities. The program is committed to helping young people become good gardeners and good citizens so they can make a positive contribution to their community, school and family. Participation in all Junior Master Gardener sessions (8 total) with a community service component, qualifies a student to become a certified Junior Master Gardener. The Routt County program offers 4 workshops each summer. 

In 2016, ten junior gardeners enjoyed learning about gardening in Routt County. Four workshops were held during the summer on Saturday mornings at the Trillium House at the Yampa River Botanic Park (YRBP). Students could attend any or all of the sessions. Earlier in the spring, the YRBP had constructed a raised bed specifically for this program. This small garden is located in the Children’s Garden section at the north end of the park. At the first workshop the participants planted the raised bed, toured the gardens and learned how to keep a garden journal. In the second workshop, the kids experienced the ongoing tasks of maintaining a garden: fertilizing, weeding, and managing pests. The third workshop focused on insects in the garden with a great presentation from the Routt County Bee Keeping Association. During the last workshop, the students harvested the garden and learned how to save seeds, dry and arrange flowers, and how to preserve garden produce.  Six Routt County Master Gardeners along with Gayle Lehman, YRBP manager, provided instruction and insights into gardening in the valley.  Students enjoyed the workshops and several attended all four sessions.  Ruth Peterson of Hayden was awarded the Junior Master Gardener certification at the end of the summer as she had attended, over two summers, all 8 workshops. 

New sessions for Junior Master Gardening will be offered summer of 2017. Participants will once again design, plant, tend and harvest the Junior Master Gardener plot at the park. In addition to the garden, students will learn how to identify plants, what organisms are found in a garden ecosystem, and how to maintain and harvest a garden. All workshops include short informational components with accompanying hands on activities. Participants at each workshop take home a project to extend their learning. Sessions will be held June 10, July 1 and 22, and August 5.  Each workshop is 3 hours: 9 am to 12 noon. 

 The Junior Master Gardener program is a great way to get kids interested in gardening. The program is open to Routt County residents. Registration is at the CSU Routt County Extension Office, 136 6th St. Steamboat Springs, CO. Sessions require a $12 materials fee. A snack and water are provided.  Sessions are limited to 12 participants .

Jo Smith is a member of the 2013 class of Routt County Master Gardeners. She is a retired biology teacher and enjoys the kid and gardening connections in the Junior Master Gardening program.

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