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"Goldy in the Garden" - 2012 Gopher Adventures Day Camp for Kids

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171712-18.jpgBy Adrienne Richter

Every Tuesday from June through August, U of M Extension Master Gardeners have been sharing their penchant for plants with students of the University of Minnesota's Gopher Adventures program--a day-camp style, summer youth program designed to open the minds and imaginations of local kids, ages 5-12.

Held in the Department of Horticultural Science Display Garden on the St. Paul campus, weekly themes like Gardening Basics, Soil Sleuths, and Trash to Treasures are designed to work as stand-alone lessons for those enrolled in the program for only a single week, while the overarching, acronym-based topic: "PLANTS" (P-lace, L-ight, A-ir, N-utrients, T-hirsty (water) and S-oil), ties everything together for those who attend on a regular basis.

This year, the "Goldy in the Garden" program has been headed-up by Extension Master Gardeners Betsy Massie, Kate Wodtke, and Rochelle Jansen from Hennepin County --with help from a rotating support staff comprising volunteer Master Gardeners from across the state.

Each class typically begins with a brief lesson, group discussion, and activity centered around073112-6.jpg that week's unique theme in the Garden's Outdoor Classroom. During last week's Plant Parts class, students first discussed the structural components of familiar garden vegetables and flowers, and then applied what they had learned through the dissection of locally-grown Asiatic and day lilies.

As the day heats up, students migrate to the covered gazebo to record the past week's weather conditions and contemplate issues of conservation and environmental stewardship. This past week, "re-use" was the topic of discussion, and students were tasked with brainstorming ways to repurpose old shoes. Creativity flowed as students suggested options like donation, making hamster beds, and even using rain boots as vessels for potting plants.

071012-1.jpgThe most anticipated part of the day is the time spent in the ever-evolving Children's Garden--a kid-friendly, botanical oasis chock full of fragrant mint and basil; neon-stemmed Swiss chard; towering trellises of morning glories; and beds of eye-catching annuals. After taking inventory of the plants, discussing their various uses, and pulling out the errant weed (or two), the students were let loose in the garden to observe, discover, and (of course) harvest a few goodies to take home and share with their families.

Next week, Pollution Solutions takes center stage, followed by a plant-based scavenger hunt in the garden. In week ten, everything comes full circle, as students are able to see how their planting, weeding, and watering has paid off--with an end-of-the-season harvest party, where students can literally "eat what they sow."

For more information:
Extension Master Gardener Program - mgweb@umn.edu
Department of Rec Sports Youth Progams: drsyouth@umn.edu

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