“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need” ~ Cicero.
Well, I’ve got everything I need and more! Besides being a Youth Services Librarian, I am a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener. (That means I’ve had training, continuing education, and lots of volunteer hours). In fact, I’m so lucky I have established and manage a Teaching Garden here at the Algonquin Area Public Library. As an EMG, I teach many classes and present programs at libraries, conferences, and for civic groups
At my library, our Teaching Garden is celebrating its second birthday. The garden consists of raised beds with a variety of different gardens. Last year we had a square foot garden, a cutting garden, a kids garden, and a sensory garden.
The first year was a learning experience for me and we learned that weeds are our biggest bugaboo, especially since our next door neighbor is a prairie restoration project. We have relocated our garden beds this year, in part, due to the proliferation of prairie plants seeding our raised beds. My Assistant Director and I just constructed two raised beds out of cedar fence pickets and 4x4s. I’ll add landscape fabric to the bottoms and have soil delivered from a local nursery. The whole project will cost about $100.
I offer programming for all ages, from preschool to adults. Programming includes lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on gardening – I call it “In the Garden Lab”. We also have teen and adult volunteers to help with the garden. Some assist with programs, others with garden maintenance.
This year, in an effort to have sustained participation by youth in the Library’s Teaching Garden, we are embarking on a new adventure and starting a Junior Master Gardeners chapter. The kids will do the planning, planting, and caring for the Teaching Garden.
Organized by Texas A&M University Extension, “ the Junior Master Gardener program is an international youth gardening program of the university cooperative Extension network. JMG engages children in novel, “hands-on” group and individual learning experiences that provide a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment, and cultivate the mind. JMG also inspires youths to be of service to others through service learning and leadership development projects, and rewards them with certification and recognition.” (JMGKids.us)
The program includes a complete curriculum and handbooks as well as several companion activities for children in a variety of grade levels. The JMGKids website has extensive support materials for anyone interested in starting a chapter.
The good news is, thanks to the curriculum and handbooks, you don’t have to be a Master Gardener, or even a gardening expert to start a chapter. You just need to have an interest gardening and working with youth. There are lessons on soils, botany, insects, and more. One set of lesson modules is titled Literature in the Garden and it offers lesson plans pairing garden themed picture books with gardening activities.
I’m interested to know who else is gardening at their Library, and how you are involving your youth. Please respond and share your experiences!