This past weekend, twenty two Leaders In Action students from Charles Town and Harpers Ferry Middle Schools visited the Outdoor Education Center (OEC) to focus on gardening. This was the first time some of our students have explored the OEC, as they are new to our Leaders In Action after-school program.
Students began their adventure at the OEC by touring our facility: viewing upper camp cabins, the lodge, shower house, and compost bathrooms. Students were excited to be back at the OEC, as their last time visiting was for two weeks of summer camp in June, July, or August. Many were anxious to tell our new students some of their favorite camp memories and activities.
At the conclusion of the hike, we ventured to our brand new 4-season greenhouse, donated by Jimmy Buffett’s Singing for Change Foundation. Students began learning the basics of gardening such as gardening indoors vs. gardening outdoors; how to properly grow plants inside if you do not have access to an open, outdoor space; and the elements of a healthy garden.
Students proceeded to learn about gardening by planting seeds of lettuce, kale, beets, carrots, and mustard greens. These seeds will remain in our indoor grow lab which provides them the proper warmth and light to develop into strong plants. During our next Sunday gardening project in November, the germinated seeds will be transplanted by our students into the 4-season greenhouse where they will remain until the winter harvest. Students will have the opportunity to interactively learn about gardening during each of our monthly weekend meetings, where they will water, propagate, and harvest these plants, in addition to planting more seeds as the seasons progress.
Each student had the opportunity to create two starter pots made out of recycled paper. Each individual starter pot housed one seed for them to take home and nurture. In addition to gardening, students learned about common garden pests such as aphids, slugs, and snails. Surprisingly, slugs and snails, however unpleasing to the eye, can be extremely helpful in a garden, as they are natural decomposers. In tribute to these creatures, each student mixed and formed their own colored slug slime.
Overall, students enjoyed their first interactive trip to the OEC. Students will actively plant, maintain, and harvest plants while in the Leaders In Action program which will greatly benefit their understanding of the plant cycle.
(Sarah Nowicki is an AmeriCorps Vista at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center).