Tara Markley
4-H Youth Development agent
The first Johnson County 4-H Gardening SPIN (special interest program) just finished. With support from the Darden Foundation and in partnerships between the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kansas City and Grace Community Garden, the gardening club was able to provide 12, second and third grade youth with a six-week program focused on container gardening.
The program was based on the National Junior Master Gardener Program which is facilitated in Johnson County by the Extension Master Gardener’s in six local schools in three school districts. This new type of program 4-H Youth Development is facilitating is a short term program focused on a specific topic and developing youth’s mastery of that specific topic. Through a generous grant from six of local Darden restaurants, club members offered the pilot program at the Grace Community Garden, which has been in existence for the past seven years.
Gardening is a life skill, which has grown in popularity with the push for urban agriculture. The food-to-table movement is strong in Johnson County. A few local schools have even realized the benefits of allowing youth to participate in gardening programs.
Aarti Subramaniam, a graduate research assistant at the University of California-Davis, in 2002 published “Garden-Based Learning in Basic Education: A Historical Review.” Priscilla Logan, educational consultant and permaculture instructor from New Mexico, listed four reasons for using gardens as a teaching method:
1. High retention rate When children work in gardens 90 percent of their experience is classified as hands-on. A study conducted by Bethel Learning Institute documented different student retention rates based on teaching method. The results concluded:
1. 11 percent retention for lectures,
2. 75 percent retention for learning by doing, and
3. 90 percent retention when students teach other students.
2. Empowerment A connection to the earth gives students a sense of achievement and motivation.
3. Academics Science, math, social studies, art, language, and many other subjects can be taught using nature as the learning laboratory, making these concepts more meaningful.
4. Teamwork Facilitating cooperation and communication in a real-world setting makes learning teamwork possible; the class goal of a successful garden becomes more important than individual achievement.
The youth this summer learned a variety of garden topics including:
• anatomy of a seed,
• good vs bad bug,
• adaptations,
• taste testing of various Kansas fruits and vegetables.
They planted a pizza garden in their containers which included: green peppers, roma tomatoes, basil, and oregano. The first 4-H SPIN garden program was considered a success and as one youth stated, “It was awesome to get to plant my first ever garden!”