Armed with 16 oz Mason jars, gloves and hand spades, Hanna Hopp was ready for her class. Hanna, a horticulturist with the Campbell County Extension Office, was invited by Abby Miller in
Rehabilitation Services to discuss soil texture with children enrolled in the
Individuals Combining Activity and Nutrition (ICAN) Garden Project that began in late May.
“Abby has told me that you have briefly discussed soils in a previous session. So, can one of you tell me which soil is the smoothest or stickiest in texture?” Hanna said to the children.
“Sand?” called out Alyvia.
“No, it’s clay” said Alex. Clay it is.
Soil textures are among several learning exercises some 12 elementary-school aged children will learn about during this year’s ICAN Garden Project. The third year the Garden Project has been offered, Abby is excited to see that there are more children enrolled in this year’s session than the previous year.
ICAN began in 2009, and coincided with the school year. It’s a way for children and teens to learn how to make eating healthy and being active fun. Abby started the Garden Project as a way to keep the ICAN project running throughout the summer, as well as to make it available to more people in the community. Students enrolled in the Garden Project come from 4-J School, Buffalo Ridge Elementary School, John Paul II Catholic School and Wagonwheel Elementary School.
Students and their parents attend two sessions a week from June to mid-August and learn about soils, bees, weeds, pollinators, as well as tour hoop houses and green houses near Gillette College. On days there isn’t a speaker, Abby or Jamie Mooney, Case Management, will discuss nutrition with the children, covering everything from why gardening is important to what is a nutrient.
And, the students do all of the work. “They helped plant the vegetables, weed, water and when it’s time, they get to harvest their produce,” says Abby.
The overall goal of the program is to teach children how to live a healthy lifestyle. “You know that well-known proverb, ‘If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.’ Well, that’s what I hope I’m doing here—teaching these kids how to feed themselves for a lifetime, the healthy way,” Abby says. “So many kids think that food comes from grocery stores. When they have a hand in growing their own food, they understand where food comes from and that agriculture is an important part of our society.”
And that’s not all. Studies have shown that children who participate in growing their own food are more willing to experiment with vegetables. According to Abby, parents have told her that their children would never try a tomato at home, but once they grew one in their garden, they were more open to tasting it. Gardening also helps reduce stress, gives the children a sense of pride, helps to keep children active, and strengthens the bond between the children and their parents.
The project is supported by a grant from the Campbell County Community Parks and Recreation District grant, as well as help from the
Campbell County Conservation District, Campbell County Extension Office,
Campbell County High School Skills USA class, Campbell County Weed and Pest,
City of Gillette, as well as David Mullins, a hobby beekeeper. These entities have given their time and energy to either give a presentation during one of the sessions, or, as the CCHS Skills USA class did, constructed the raised garden beds, helped move soil and till.
To learn more about the ICAN Garden Project, contact Abby Miller at 307.688.8009 or Jamie Moonie at 307.688.8047. See more photos from the ICAN Garden Project on Facebook.