A Summer of Outdoor Adventure, Courtesy of The Mayor's Youth Academy and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Sadia Pollard, Mayor’s Youth Academy Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
I’ve enjoyed nature since I was a young child. As I get older I’m learning the importance of positive interaction with planet earth. Being at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has showed me what that positive interaction really means.
My first day of interning was also my first day at the garden. I was immediately enchanted by the plethora of plants. Yes, I was aware that I was at a garden, but not one with such personality. All throughout my day I was gaping at all the different plants and how well they worked together. I still have a sense of amazement and curiosity for the garden everyday I’m here.
I think I should first discuss how I got my internship at the garden. I am participating in a program called Mayor’s Youth Academy. It’s basically a program to help instill qualities in my generation to build a successful workforce. Everyone in the program gets a 6-week paid internship at a business. Most of the jobs were office-related. Lewis Ginter stood out to me as a great opportunity because I absolutely dread sitting in an office for long periods of time. I was also very interested in becoming familiar with plants and their names and uses so it seemed like a perfect fit.
One of the greatest aspects of my internship is that I was able to work with variety of departments. I hauled trees on to trucks with the horticulturist. The librarian introduced me to the wonders of herbariums (which don’t smell very pleasant) and the categorizing of a whole library that contains just plant-related books. The Garden administration is a lovely group of people who make every employee and patron feel right at home. I had a chance to input data from a surveys about what people thought about the Garden (with the Development department) and although that may not seem very fun it was entertaining to see what some people had to say about the Garden.
I saw the relationship between hibiscus, cotton, and okra in the Community Kitchen Garden and learned that flat beans don’t taste that bad, although they look strange. The Children’s Garden has been my home base for my internship over the last 6 weeks. Everyone, the staff in the Children’s Garden in particular, have made my experience spectacular. I told them that I was interested in alternative medicine and the educators here went out of their way to help me learn about different plants and how they can be used in a medicinal way. The staff that I worked with sometimes mentioned plants throughout the day as we walked by them or giving me literature to read about plants and allowing me to find them. Spending time with each staff member allowed me to see what the Children’s Garden vision really is: to allow children to have meaningful interactions in nature in a safe environment.
Some of my favorite activities were planting vibrant pepper plants; putting on a puppet show in the Children’s Garden, and collecting dill, cosmos and conflower seeds to be sold by Youth Volunteers at the Fall Plant Sale. I spent two weeks assisting with Green Adventures Summer Camp that the Garden offers to young children. That experience opened my eyes to the art of teaching children in nature, and exposing them to the wonders of positive interaction with nature. There were also many creatures to interact with while at the Garden. I was able to visit the bee hives and taste fresh honey right from the hive. Later on I was able to share that same experience with the children in the camps and teach them about the importance of bees. Goats were another creature I got to meet. Did you know that the Garden has goats?! I even held a baby goat that fit perfectly in my arms. But, my favorite creatures by far were the butterflies. Not just in the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit, but all over the Garden. I had never been so close or had seen so many different types. I was also allowed to spend some independent time to run some educational programs including Good Green Fun, the Garden Art Studio and Drop in and Dig.
It was fun to show children some of the small wonders of the Garden like finding ripe tomatoes and eating them, or showing them how to identify poison ivy. My time at the Garden has been so enjoyable that once my internship is over I will try to volunteer here during the school year. I even feel prepared for my horticulture dual-enrollment class I’ll be taking in the fall. Not only have I learned so much, I feel much more confident about my knowledge of nature. I’m also very excited to share what I’ve learned with my friends and family. The Garden, along with its entire staff has truly had a positive effect on me.