Bend kids get a look at gardening – Garden Sprouts club shows students the fruits of their labor

Over the past month, students in the Environmental Center’s Summer Garden Sprouts club have learned that gardens aren’t all delicate plants and sweet-smelling flowers. 

As students found out on a recent Wednesday, more often than not, gardens are home to an array of sinister creatures.

“This is the first beetle I’ve found like this,” Elle Cota, 6, said, holding out the stick the beetle was perched on.

Elle made a face as she peered at the brown and beige insect.

“Eww, it looks like it has a stinger,” Elle said.

Last Wednesday, the six girls in the Garden Sprouts club, a club organized by the Bend Park & Recreation District and Environmental Center that has been meeting every Wednesday since early July, met for their final session. The students in the program, all between the ages of 6 and 8, spent the summer planting, weeding, mulching and harvesting the Environmental Center’s Kansas Avenue garden.

It was cool Wednesday morning, a welcome relief to some of the campers who had gotten used to toiling away in hot weather.

“We’re out here rain or shine, or in 90-degree heat,” said Denise Rowcroft, sustainability advocate and camp instructor with the Environmental Center.

“It’s nice it’s not so hot now,” Sahalie Oceguera, 6, said. “It’s nice being in the cool breeze.”

The session began with students watering the plants, something the girls had down pat after weeks of caring for the garden. They toted large watering cans, tipping them over raised beds of tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, lettuce and potatoes. The blueberry plants in particular were a hit with the students.

“Can we eat these?” Leila Olson, 6 asked, pointing to the berries hanging off the plant stems.

Rowcroft nodded, and several students descended upon the plant, savoring the flavors of the fresh berries they helped grow.

While watering and weeding, students came across the unusual-looking beetle in a patch of grass. For a moment, every student’s attention was on the creature.

Rowcroft explained to students that all bugs in the garden had a role to play.

“See that beetle? It’s there for a reason,” Rowcroft said.

While some scrunched their faces up in disgust, Sahalie looked at the beetle with interest — it didn’t scare her. She said she’s had plenty of experience gardening with her dad at home, where she’s often come across bugs.

“I like the worms,” Sahalie said. “I like playing with them. They’re cute.”

After watering the plants, students took a short break for a midmorning snack. Then they spent the rest of the morning making mementos of their time spent as Garden Sprout club members. Each student received a plain white shirt which they tie-dyed using natural dyes made from turmeric powder, beet juice and grape juice. Students used squirt bottles filled with the dye, staining their shirts bright yellows, reds and purples. They left the finished shirts to dry on the garden’s brick path.

Later, students made a salad from ingredients harvested from the garden for their final lunch together.

“It’s just a good opportunity for them to be outside and see firsthand where our food comes from,” Rowcroft said. “They get a chance to see just how much work it takes.”

By Megan Kehoe / The Bulletin
Published: August 14. 2013 4:00AM PST

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