As the Development Director for Wasatch Community Gardens (WCG), I spend a lot of time writing grant proposals for foundations, singing the praises of WCG’s garden-based youth classes, field trips, and summer camps and the amazing youth educators who run them. (Photo by WCG Staff) While I have always passionately believed in WCG’s programs and staff and the work we do, it wasn’t until my own child participated in a WCG City Sprouts summer camp for a week in August that I fully comprehended the magic of this “kids, gardens, and healthy eating” connection. I also gained a deeper appreciation for WCG’s talented and hard-working youth educators. As a parent, of course I want my kids to spend time outside in the garden and eat healthy foods. But have you ever tried to get a 3-year-old to do something that he doesn’t want to do? (Photo: “Trying to get my 3-year-old to do something he doesn’t want to do;” by Lindsey Smith) And yet, at the WCG's City Sprouts summer camp, I witnessed the youth educators succeed in getting 12 pre-schoolers to commune with bees, pull weeds, harvest onions, and eat kale! Their trick? Make it fun, and kids will do it! As a fun way to illustrate the “kids, gardens, and healthy eating” connection, I’ve written a summary of the Hooray for the Harvest pre-school summer camp activities below. The "adult version" is a description as imparted to me by WCG’s youth educators. The 3-year-old version is the account provided by my 3-year-old son Elliott.
MONDAY (adult version) Theme: Get to Know the Garden Art Project: Thumb print ladybugs (made from paper plates and popsicle sticks) Activity: After reading The Hungry Caterpillar, the kids searched the garden for food that the hungry caterpillar would eat. They also helped harvest tomatoes. Snack: “Caterpillars” (pretzel sticks with cucumber and tomato slices) MONDAY (3-year-old version) Me: “Did you eat something from the garden at summer camp?” Elliott: “I ate cucumber!” [Note: Until now, my child has refused to try vegetables other than carrots and tomatoes.] Me: “Really?! We have cucumbers in our garden. Would you like to eat one?” Elliott: “No, I only eat kid cucumbers, not grown-up ones.” (Photo by WCG Staff)
TUESDAY (adult version) Theme: Soil and Bugs Art Project: Bug antennae headbands Activity: The kids looked for bugs in the garden and harvested onions. Snack: Pudding with strawberries. TUESDAY (3-year-old version) Elliott: “I picked onions. They have dirt on them.” Me: “What should we do with them?” Elliott: “Cook them for dinner!” Me: “Do you like to eat onions?” Elliott: “Yes, but I don’t like to eat them on the couch.” (Photo by WCG Staff) (Photo by WCG Staff)
WEDNESDAY (adult version) Theme: Weather and Water Art Project: Clouds (made from shaving cream) Activity: After reading The Curious Garden, the kids went on a “hike” through the garden. When they stopped to eat their snack, they talked about what it means to be curious and asked questions such as “How big are a bee’s ears?” Snack: Trail mix WEDNESDAY (3-year-old version) Me: “Tell me something you learned at camp today.” Elliott: “Baby bees would eat honey with their tiny mouths if they were hungry.” Me: [Speechless. How do you top that?] (Photo by WCG Staff) (Photo by WCG Staff)
THURSDAY (adult version) Theme: Bees Art Project: Bee suits (made from paper plates and string) Activity: Following instructions from the queen bee (youth educator), the bees (kids) searched for different colored flowers in the garden. When they found the right flower, they got to do the “bee dance.” The kids helped harvest kale and learned that it is a “super food” that makes them strong. They also helped with “weeding” so they could make flower crowns and dinosaur tails out of bindweed. Snack: Green smoothies, consumed using “bee tongues” (straws) THURSDAY (3-year-old version) Me: “What did you eat at summer camp today?” Elliott: “Smoothies!” Me: “What was in the smoothies?” Elliott: “Strawberries, blueberries, coconut water, yogurt, and kale.” Me: “You ate kale?!”[Again, this is a child who, until now, refuses to eat vegetables that are green.] Elliott: “It gives me super powers!” (Photos by WCG Staff)
FRIDAY (adult version) Theme: Flowers Activity: Read The Missing Sunflower, helped feed goldfish to live snakes, and harvested cucumbers and tomatoes. Snack: The kids “fished” for goldfish (crackers) in ranch dressing, using their fishing poles (cucumber and carrot sticks) and “snake” tongues. (Photo by WCG Staff) FRIDAY (3-year-old version) Elliott didn’t have much to report about today’s summer camp beyond the snakes that ate goldfish (who wouldn’t remember that?). However, I gave full credit to summer camp when, later in the day, Elliott started giving names to his toy dinosaurs like “Mold,” “Mulch,” and “Pod.” Even better, when we made fruit smoothies at home on Friday afternoon, Elliott saw me cutting up the fruit and made sure to tell me: “Don’t forget the yogurt… and the kale!” (Photo by Lindsey Smith) That right there is worth the price of admission.
Commentary by Lindsey Smith, WCG Development Director.