As summer approaches, older school children (ages 10 to 18) who are too young to work or can’t find work face three months during which they lack the daily structure and stimulation that school provides. For kids whose parents can afford camp or summer program fees, this might not be such a problem. For kids from lower-income families, summertime can be one long stretch of keeping themselves entertained and out of trouble. Is there some low-cost way to provide these children with a rewarding, stimulating summer experience? There is, through the implementation of a Garden Mosaics project.
Garden Mosaics projects promote science education while connecting young and old people as they work together in local gardens. While the Garden Mosaics program was started by Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension-NYC, individual Garden Mosaics projects have been undertaken nationwide. What these projects have in common is that they train young people in methods of scientific inquiry (interview skills, observation, and data recording), provide young people with an introduction to basic science (plant and insect biology and soil science), and partner young people with elderly gardeners who share their knowledge and culture.
How is a typical Garden Mosaics project structured? Youth in these projects participate in three types of activities: “getting acquainted”, “investigations”, and “action projects”. “Getting acquainted” activities, which can center on actual gardening, are designed to break the ice and prepare youth to work together as a team. “Investigations” provide youth with an opportunity to learn about several things. Participants observe and make a collage about the neighborhood the garden is located in. They also gather in-depth information about the participating gardener, the garden they’ll be working in, and the culture-specific gardening techniques the gardener employs. Data gathered during the “investigations” phase of a Garden Mosaics project is posted on the main website, providing students with a sense of accomplishment as they contribute to a national databank on gardening practices. “Action projects” are carried out by youth in cooperation with the gardener. Such projects might include building a wheelchair-accessible raised bed, hosting a banquet using food from the garden, or talking to elected officials about the importance of community gardens.
Garden Mosaics projects can be coordinated by teachers, parents, or any willing, enthusiastic volunteer. These projects can take place in community gardens, retirement center gardens, church, temple, or synagogue gardens, and individual homeowner’s gardens. The Garden Mosaics website provides materials for those who are interested in starting a project in their area; a program manual, science fact sheets, videos, and other materials can be downloaded. Visitors to the site are invited to use the materials while keeping in mind the four core components of a Garden Mosaics project: science (asking questions, observing, recording findings), people (the uniting of elder gardeners with local youth), cultures (the link between plants, gardening practices, and different cultures) and action (enhancing gardens and the local neighborhood).
Contact Group: Garden Mosaics
Address: Fernow Hall 16
Ithaca, NY 14853
Web site: www.gardenmosaics.cornell.edu