Serve – March ’14 Real Dirt

Planting Seeds for our Future

by Lillian Mahaney

“All of the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today”

an Indian proverb

When you garden with children you are definitely planting the seeds for our future gardeners.  The Jr. Master Gardener program is designed to educate children in a manner that makes learning fun.  Jr. Master Gardener instructors can allow their creative side to flourish.  Last year there were two new Jr. Master Gardener classes and the creativity of activities was amazing.  Please read on for some of the highlights of these classes.

Karen McClatchey held classes at the Peninsula Community Library, in conjunction with Old Mission Peninsula School.  Karen began her classes in late January to run through mid April with 10 students.  A few of the comments from the children are:  “I LOVED Jr. Master Gardening.  I want to do it again this year.”  “I learned a lot and it was fun at the same time.”  “We did a lot.  I had to miss one day and I was sad because it was so much fun.”  “I helped my mother with the garden during the summer with all that I learned.”

Karen’s classes were one hour long and there was a hands-on project in each class.  Some of the projects were miniature landscapes, terrariums, potpourri, etc.  Karen’s children made the sweetest little ivy topiary for me for Valentine’s Day and I smile every time I go by it under my gro-lights.  Karen started her new classes this year on February 13th.  The wonderful quote at the beginning of the article was suggested by Karen.

Dorothy Batzer (assisted by Cyndi and Deb) held classes at Kaleva/Norman/Dickson Schools in Brethren.  The classes were part of the “Healthy Self” program sponsored by MSU and West Shore Medical Center.  Prior to the JRMG offering there were classes on nutrition education and physical activity.  After the JRMG progrem there were classes on hands-on cooking.

Dorothy also incorporated many projects including making paper hats and flowers, taste-testing sprouts, insects and flower designs on muslin for Mother’s Day, growing and planting seeds, etc.

When I have held classes some of my activities have been making lavender sachets, growing bean seeds, creating miniature landscapes, etc.  One of my favorite activities is to ask the children to pretend they are a fly and just narrowly escaped from a Venus Fly Trap.  I still smile when I recall one of the terrific stories and expect to see that little girl’s name on the cover of a best selling novel in years to come.

Another of my children’s favorite activities is singing and dancing to “The Water Cycle Boogie” and “F.B.I. (fungus, bacteria, invertebrates)” by the Banana Slug String Band.  I  turn on the CD player during the last 5-10 minutes of class while I cleaning up.  The moms have reported to me that the children also sing the songs in the car on the way home.  The Slugs are 4 fellows in California and they have a number of CDs on various themes.  You can listen to the songs either on Amazon or the Slugs website at

The next Jr. Master Gardener training class will be held on Monday, March 24th from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the Grand Traverse Government Center, 400 Boardman Avenue.  The center is just north of 8th Street on Boardman Avenue.  Please enter by the front doors and go downstairs to the cafeteria.  Please make reservations by March 17th either by emailing me at or calling 256-8844.  Email is usually the easiest way to reach me and I will send you a confirmation.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the Jr. Master Gardener program.   The program is sponsored by MSUE and 4-H in the various counties.  I can pretty much guarantee that you will have fun and rediscover your “inner child gardener”.