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by Kristin Mullen, Children’s Garden Educator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Summer camp! Don’t those words just make you smile? Rest assured, the 4- and 5-year-olds in the Growing Minds and Wow Your Senses camps are smiling, too! And while it’s obvious they are having fun, the casual observer might not realize that they are also learning – learning to cooperate with others, learning to take safe risks, learning healthy eating habits, and learning to respect and appreciate the natural world. The list could go on and on!

The Creek Crossing in the Asian Valley at Lewis Ginter.

The Creek Crossing in the Asian Valley at Lewis Ginter.

Each day, as we walk from the Robins Visitors Center to the Children’s Garden, the little explorers can’t wait to find the largest leaves (or the most enormous, gargantuan, or gigantic!) and point them out. After a particularly exciting wetland walk, they insist on checking in on the catfish each day (by the way, what do catfish say? Meow, obviously!)  And they can’t get enough of hiking the special path where they hop the boulders to cross the rushing creek leading from the Asian Valley to the West Island Garden. After some initial hesitation and lots of coaxing and hand-holding on the first day, by the end of the week they proudly announced that they could do it themselves — they didn’t need an adult’s hand to help them cross anymore!

The Garden Keeper presents: Mushroom in the Rain, the puppet show.

The Garden Keeper presents: Mushroom in the Rain, the puppet show.

A few of our new literacy-based activities were also some of the most popular. The Garden Keeper (aka Dawn Lipscomb, educator extraordinaire) narrated laughter-inducing puppet shows based on two of our favorite nature-based books, Mushroom in the Rain, by Mirra Ginsburg and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. The rising-kindergarteners didn’t just plant broccoli sprout seeds (that they could harvest and eat by the time they took them home at the end of the week), they planted them in the shape of their initials!

Rising-kindergarten campers enjoy watering their broccoli sprout initials in the Children's Garden Greenhouse!

Rising-kindergarten campers enjoy watering their broccoli sprout initials in the Children’s Garden Greenhouse. Photo by Beth Kobus

Year after year, I get comments from the parents on the snacks. At the beginning of the week it starts out as “I’m sending a snack because he/she won’t eat what you’re offering.”  And by the end of the week, those same children are asking for second helpings of the fruits, vegetables and seeds we have on the menu! One parent wrote, “One activity that surprised me in how much it affected him was trying all the different snacks. He even asked us to put sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds on the grocery list, after trying those snacks one day and liking it.”

We’d love to see all of our campers back next year, of course! But even if we don’t, we hope the experience made them want to grow their own broccoli sprouts, eat a few more seeds, read a good book, or just take note of the interesting plants and animals that surround us all of the time, everywhere we go. After all, there’s always a bigger leaf to discover right around the next bend!

And if you haven’t made plans for this summer yet, there are just a few spots left in 2 of our camps:

Herbology 101 | Rising 4th and 5th grade

July 22 – 26,  9am – noon

Explore meadows, forests and gardens seeking out the wild plants that inspired gillyweed, mimbulus, and bobotubers. Discover the magical yet real properties of flowers, roots, leaves and seeds that are used for flavoring, healing and art. We’ll even use plants to play a game of botanical quidditch!

Click here for on-line registration

Adventures in Science | Rising 6th and 7th grade

July 29 – August 2,  9am – noon

Here’s a recipe for summer fun: combine chemistry, cuisine, ecology and adventure in equal parts; then enjoy! We will make a solar oven and prepare snacks from foods we harvest from the Farm Garden. Learn to use a GPS, hydrophone & microscope to monitor wildlife, conduct experiments and go on a geocaching adventure.

Click here for on-line registration

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