Students learn to be junior master gardeners
Gila River Indian News
Can you identify your soil type? These topics and more were presented to a group of Community youth at one summer program. The Tribal Education Department hosted a Summer Junior Master Gardener Program at the Sacaton Head Start building from June 3-24.
This is a 4-week Junior Master Gardener program which will take place once weekly in 3 hour long workshops covering topics ranging from plant parts, needs, processes, propagation and permaculture practices according to Sienna Whittington, Project Manager.
The program was open to 30 students ages 8-14, who are looking for something to do during the summer break, but have an interest in planting.
Master gardening instructor Chanika Forte was present to teach the eager participants how to plant their favorite vegetables. Forte, has taught gardening and incorporating gardening into her work with the St. Vincent de Paul’s urban farm in Phoenix.
“I love working with kids, because they think outside of the box and are not afraid to get dirty out in the garden,” said Forte. With gardening, Forte’s curriculum has now branched out to local communities to teach groups how to plant, harvest, and compost.
She said at one gardening session, they covered seeds and seasonal planting, when is the best time to plant things like corn. Forte is also a bee keeper and at one class, she brought in an empty hive and bee suit to educate the youth about the role insects play in gardening.
“We teach how good and bad bugs work in the farm and how the good ones keep that bad ones away,” said Forte.
Also, interaction with nature as a whole, we can’t survive in nature if bugs and birds weren’t fertilizing plants, which can provide us with foods. Soil plays a big role in the sustainability of vegetables said Forte.
Students learned about the different types of soil compositions and how a mixture of sand, silt and clay can improve the growth of vegetables in their own gardens at home.
After completion of the program the youth receive certificates as junior master gardeners. One of the class participants Benjamin Brown said he was interested in gardening.
“I really like this class, I always help out with my mom, I’ve been doing it since I was eight,” said Benjamin Brown a sixth grade student at Kyrene Middle School. On what he would like to grow, “It would be raspberries, maybe corn some of this stuff I’ve done before.”
Behind the head start building, the group of participants went to work on a garden, turning up the soil by removing weeds and laying down a fresh layer of potting soil. At the garden, the students will plant a number of vegetables of their choice, like peppers, carrots, and beans.