By Lisa Herrick
Children love digging in the dirt. They are fascinated by looking for worms and bugs. They are delighted by watering the garden and anything else in the near vicinity. Children also enjoy planting seeds, watching them grow and harvesting what they have grown. Cultivating children’s curiosity in gardening leads to an appreciation for nature and awareness of how food is grown.
Yet not all families have the space or time for their own gardens. Some families may just be searching for an introduction to gardening rather than tending to their own. Or maybe your children are looking for ways to give back to the community and to those less fortunate. The Dirt Works Children’s Garden Program is the solution to the lack of your own garden space, learning how to garden and growing fresh vegetables for those in need.
The Dirt Works Children’s Garden Program is a free summer program presented by the Washington State University (WSU) County Extension Master Gardeners.
Programs are held on Tuesdays throughout the summer with special events on some Saturdays. Each program includes hands-on garden activities based on a different weekly theme such as planting seeds, tending and harvesting, playing garden games and take home crafts. Children work alongside and learn from the Master Gardeners.
The activities are designed to promote a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment, and cultivate the mind. The WSU Master Gardener volunteers teach the children horticulture and environmental science education through fun and creative activities. Young gardeners are introduced to the art and science of gardening while developing community service values. The bounty raised from the garden is donated to the Thurston County Food Bank and flowers are given to the local nursing homes.
The Children’s Garden program kicked off with botany basics where approximately thirty children and their families were led by ten master gardeners teaching the parts of plants and the basic environmental needs of plants for successful growth. Children range in age from four to twelve years with a combination of first time participants and returnees. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian but can choose to attend all or any of the programs throughout the summer.
Eleven year old Trevor Tomlin has participated every summer for the last six years. “I love looking at the flowers in the gardens, helping people who do not have enough food by giving the Thurston County Food Bank the food we grow, and learning how to garden,” shared Tomlin about why he has returned to the program year after year. “Last year I even started my own garden at home after learning gardening here. I grew corn, pumpkins, peppers and beans. I am planting a garden again this year,” continued Tomlin.
Master Gardener volunteers Kathleen Hansson and George Cowan, both retired teachers, combined their love of gardening and children to help introduce kids to the benefits and enjoyment of gardening. Hansson, a WSU Master Gardener since 2000 shares, “It is exciting to see kids learning where food comes from and about the different kinds of food.” Cowan adds “Our Children’s Garden program is the envy of the Washington State Master Gardeners.”
Children’s Garden programs are held Tuesdays throughout the summer from 10:00 am -noon. Upcoming programs include the following:
August 5: Butterflies and Moths
Children will enjoy a hands on activity and take home craft focused on differentiating the two fluttery winged creatures.
August 12: Birds in the Garden
Kids will explore the incredible dynamic between birds and gardens and the habitat requirements needed by our feathered friends.
August 19: Worms: Earth Movers
Red Wiggler worms are the focus of this program as children will learn about the amazing compost they produce and the benefits they provide to the garden.
August 26: Garden Game Day
Children will experience how a garden can be a fun place to play and learn.
More than just plants grow out of helping a child tend a garden. Gardening gives children a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Gardening helps them learn about the environment and about the relationship between plants and people.
Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.