Growing gardening knowledge

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2013

At Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center Tuesday, Suffolk Master Gardeners’ Wanda Gerard, Ben Shockley and Sandy Muller get excited as they tell members about the 2013 schools outreach program, “Ready, Set, Grow.”

Suffolk’s Master Gardeners are gearing up to launch a 2013 schools outreach program, which will connect educational Standards of Learning for first graders to lessons about the plants that produce the food they eat.

During an information session Tuesday at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Office for members of the association who will deliver the program, association President Wanda Gerard led a demonstration of the updated program.

For instance, children will learn that germination is how “baby plants wake up” before they put down roots and create stems and leaves.

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“It’s really fun when you see kids smiling and enjoying it,” Gerard told the members. “By doing this review, we help reinforce the SOLs.”

Five of Suffolk’s 15 schools with first-graders currently remain to be registered for this year’s program, titled “Ready, Set Grow,” she said.

The program, coordinated by Bev Rooker, will take place between February and March, and Gerard is calling on parents of home-schooled children to form groups of 10 to 15 kids so they don’t miss out.

The program is delivered in sessions lasting from 20 to 30 minutes to groups of 25 to 30 students, she said.

Simple lessons include things like “the seed germinates, the seed puts down roots, then the seed puts out a stem, then the seed sends out leaves,” members heard.

Each child will get to plant a seed in his or her own container, to be kept in the classroom, and will also take home a packet of seeds and printed instructions.

Gerard hopes that in the future, students will bring pictures of their growing plants to share with their classmates.
“A master gardener’s responsibility is to share their love of gardening in an educational way with the people in the communities where they live,” she said.

“By doing this within the schools and (with) the students, it allows us to provide education to children.”

The Suffolk Master Gardeners Association has 74 members, Gerard said. She encouraged those interested in joining, or parents of home-schoolers seeking information about “Ready, Set, Grow,” to contact the Suffolk extension office at 514-4331.