Local Camp Makes Gardening Fun for Kids
By Karen Zurawski
The sound of hammering recently filled Building D at the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds as 25 elementary-age students used rubber mallets to pound flowers in an ancient Japanese technique to create patterns on paper.
It was all part of the 12th annual Earth-Kind™Kids Camp presented through Texas A&M AgriLife by Fort Bend County Master Gardeners that introduces the third- through fifth-graders to herbs, water pollution, micro greens and other aspects of gardening.
Ten-year-old Jayden was attending his second year of camp. "I get new friends," he said, explaining why he likes camp. "I like meeting other people." Only on the second day of camp and Jayden said he's already learned about how to take care of the environment. "We learned what animals help take care of the environment," he said. "We've been doing water pollution and different ways to plant plants."
Camping is a family affair. Both of his cousins attended last year and one returned this year, with the other too old to participate again.
It's a family affair, too, for Alex, 8, in his first year of camp. He's attending because his brother attended before him and his cousin came with him this year. "We're making cool stuff - flowers and we're playing bingo. I think I might start a garden now," added Alex, who said he would grow flowers and fruit.
At 15, Olivia Trevino is a camp veteran who attended before COVID and returns now to help the younger campers. "I came back to help because it was something I enjoyed every year," she said. "If they need help doing anything, I'm going to help. I don't do it for them. I help them figure it out. I think I help them enjoy camp." She is one of two teen volunteers this year out of a total of 21 volunteers.
Volunteer Betty Weidemeyer, a certified Master Gardener since 2002, said "I love to see the children learn. They're so eager to learn. They learn practical things."
This is Nancy Seibel's eleventh year volunteering at YAC camp. A Master Gardener since 2004, she said, "It's fun to work with the younger kids and to teach them things around plants and the environment and to provide them opportunities for expression that, in some cases, they don't necessarily get in public schools or in their own homes. We offer a very broad range of activities, so that they get some art items, they get some science, they get obviously hands-on with plants and the idea is to help develop an understanding of how water, plants and the environment all work together." While the range of knowledge varies among the 8- to 11-year-old campers, Seibel added "It's kind of amazing sometimes how much some of these kids already know."
Donna Blackburn, FBMG Youth Activities Director, has worked on the YAC camp since 2013 when she became a certified Master Gardener. "I'm a former teacher and when I retired this allows me to continue teaching and working with kids."
The camp offers variety, she said, from an outside speaker each of the four days of camp to activities such as making paper pots, touring an herb garden and focusing on different issues such as water this year with the North Fort Bend Water Authority. A popular speaker is Cowboy Larry Callies who founded The Black Cowboy Museum in Rosenberg. "The kids always ask if Cowboy Larry is coming back," said Blackburn.
"We have a lesson and then an activity that goes along with it," she said. "Every activity they take something home."
To learn more about the Fort Bend County Gardeners, please visit fbmg.org.