Leadership, sustainability, teamwork and the basics of gardening will all be taught elbows-deep in the dirt this summer as the Roots, Shoots, Flowers and Fruits summer program heads into its seventh year.
The summer gardening program in the Children’s Garden at the Fehr Avenue Neighborhood Garden offers opportunities for children ages 6-11 to explore the process of growing and harvesting plants over a four-week period from July 8 to Aug. 2.
From preparing soil to enjoying the harvest, children get to explore the world of agriculture through games and activities, according to Angie Tompkins, extension resource educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schenectady County.
Roots, Shoots, Flowers and Fruits
WHO: Children ages 6-11
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. weekdays from July 8 to Aug. 2
WHERE: Children’s Garden at the Fehr Avenue Neighborhood Garden, Schenectady
COST: $50 per week or $175 for all four weeks (or free, if qualified)
INFO: Visit the Roots and Wisdom Facebook page or call Angie Tompkins at 372-1622, ext. 259
“We want to give kids the opportunity to learn life lessons in the garden while digging, harvesting and having fun,” she said.
Thanks to local fundraising, this summer’s program is offering a select number of scholarships for children of eligible families, such as those who receive Medicaid, food stamps, disability and other government aid, opening up the program to even more children. Spots are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Participants may sign up for one week or all four, with each week’s theme progressing as the garden moves from seedlings to harvestable fruits.
Roots, Shoots, Flowers and Fruits began as a way to show young children how their food gets from garden to table and to increase their appreciation for healthy options. It stresses the work behind growing, maintaining, and harvesting while providing a fun and rewarding experience for both children and staff.
The program is an offshoot of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Roots and Wisdom program, a youth agriculture and community service program that provides fresh produce to local food pantries and for sale in Schenectady County.
The year-round youth program, aimed at people ages 14-21, provides an opportunity for potentially at-risk youth to learn skills in agriculture, botany and entomology, with a focus on future jobs and increased sustainability.
Roots and Wisdom participants help with the Roots, Shoots, Flowers and Fruits Summer Program, providing guidance, leadership and positive role models for the younger children, according to Jenny Hudman, grower and educator for Roots and Wisdom.
“The younger kids really grow to love the older ones. They think it’s so cool to see someone older show interest in the same things they’re doing,” she said.
The teens bond much the same way, even electing to spend their lunch hour in the younger children’s garden instead of their own space.
The best part of the program is watching the first encounters, Tompkins said.
“It’s the moment you see the excitement in their faces when they get a shovel for the first time and find a worm or a bug, or pull up a radish,” she said. “It plants a seed of interest.”
And once that seed has been planted, there’s no telling how tall it can grow.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: