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January 2011 Archives

School-based projects thrive in Ramsey County

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Battle Creek Middle School students

Last year in Ramsey County, Master Gardeners spent approximately 604 volunteer hours working with 1,865 students and 89 adults through school-based projects. These school-based community enrichment projects will have a lasting impact upon future gardeners. The gardens will help manage storm water run-off, beautify schoolyards, inform future school education activities, serve as demonstrations to students, staff, residents and visitors, and provide valuable wildlife habitat. Master Gardeners explained and discussed garden design elements, evaluated sites for schoolyard gardens and residential rain gardens, explained soil types and conducted soil sampling, taught students to identify common garden weeds, and instructed students on seed starting and transplanting.

Check out this thank you note from a Battle Creek Middle School student: "Thank you so much for everything you've done. You've been really helpful to Battle Creek. I think it's awesome that you care about our community. What I'm trying to say is that it means a lot to us middle-schoolers that you helped take care of our environment. Thanks a bunch."

Veterans Garden planted in Thief River Falls

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The City of Thief River Falls approached Pennington County Master Gardeners to design a garden in an empty lot next to City Hall. A plan was developed for a sustainable perennial garden. Three eagle scouts took on this project. They named it the Veterans Memorial Garden and launched a fundraising effort that reached $15,000.00. What was initially planned to be just a sustainable perennial bed turned into a huge perennial garden with stone paths, a fence and statues of veterans. Master Gardeners assisted in plant selection and planting. It was a wonderful collaborative project involving over 50 people.

Several county Master Gardener programs collaborate with local corrections departments on projects that benefit the corrections system clients and the greater public. In Olmsted County, Master Gardeners teach Dodge, Fillmore, Olmsted (DFO) Community Corrections staff and community work service clients the basics of vegetable gardening. The participants learn to grow and harvest vegetables from a 1-acre garden they maintain. About 200 youth performing community service and about 50 adults on daily work release from jail are involved. Upon harvest, they prepare and sell the vegetables. Over 5000 pounds of vegetables are harvested. This project provides a constructive environment for youth to serve their community service hours. It also acquaints the participants with all aspects of gardening and experiences that illustrate the rewards from work.

Work continues with the Enabling Teaching Garden Project at Cherry View Elementary School in Dakota County. Using a Minnesota Master Gardener grant, Master Gardeners worked with a special needs Boy Scout and his troop to construct an enabling garden for horticultural therapy. The garden included a wheelchair accessible bed surrounded by a wheelchair accessible path. Special needs students and their helpers were given instruction and assisted in the planting of their sensory garden that includes highly textured, colored, and fragrant plants. Students and helpers maintained the garden during the school year and through the summer months. The garden has been especially meaningful to special needs students and their families. It also exposes all who visit the school to the benefits of horticultural therapy.

Goodhue County Master Gardeners were involved in creating a larger-scale city park designed with special needs in mind. In Faribault County, Master Gardeners have worked with a local nursing home and engaged both residents and youth in creating a raingarden at the facility in Winnebago. This year youth had the opportunity to work with the senior citizens on garden cleanup in the spring. Together they divided perennials and extra plants were sold to benefit the nursing home.

Junior Master Gardener pilot project

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Junior Master Gardener planting

The Master Gardener Program collaborated with Extension's 4-H program to pilot the Junior Master Gardener 4-H SET (Science, Engineering, and Technology) project in 2009. The pilot was generously funded by a grant from the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) Foundation.

There were six expectations of each site.

  1. engage at least 10 youth in a minimum of 8 learning sessions
  2. involve a local MNLA member sponsor
  3. incorporate a science experiment and a service project
  4. use technology to teach, communicate and report
  5. utilize JMG curriculum and have some type of teaching garden
  6. participate in evaluations

Six counties were selected to participate; two had multiple sites: Clearwater, Crow Wing, Olmsted (2), Sherburne, Stearns (2), and Winona. Seventy-two participants attended one of two trainings. Each site received JMG materials and a $125 grant for supplies.

All sites were successful. Data from the pilot evaluation shows that in total:

  • 125 youth enrolled in the project; 97 youth completed the entire project
  • 30 percent of youth participants were non-white/persons of color; 70 percent were white/Caucasian
  • 87 youth were new to the 4-H program

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