Emily Hanlin mugshot

By Emily Hanlin

Winnebago –Boone Farm Bureau Ag Communications

BOONE COUNTY – Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman philosopher, once said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Imagine if there was a place where you had the opportunity to access a library and a garden in the same facility. Well, at several schools across Boone County, that is exactly the case.

“The Junior Master Gardener (JMG) program is an international youth gardening program of the University Cooperative Extension network,” Judy Hodge from the Boone County Extension Office said. The JMG program involves youngsters in innovative, “hands-on” group and individual educational experiences that “deliver a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment, and cultivate the mind.”

Hodge explained that the JMG program also inspires youths to “be of service to others through service learning and leadership development projects, and rewards them with certification and recognition.”

Students get the chance to “discover their world through meaningful horticultural and environmental science activities that encourage leadership development, personal pride, responsibility, and community involvement,” Hodge said.

The program incorporates service learning and volunteerism, which enables youth to make a positive contribution to their community.

JMG offers an opening for youth to cooperate and connect with the environment. As they go through the JMG program, they can learn how to preserve natural resources and make well-informed decisions about the environment.

school gardensBoone County has several schools that incorporate the JMG Program into their classes. Perry School in Belvidere hosts a garden club that will come together on Fridays, April 22, April 29, and May 13. They will meet from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

“They have a summer gardening program called “Tuesday’s at 10,” Hodge said.

The Master Gardeners meet with the kids during the summer to assist and teach them about taking care of their garden.  They harvest what is grown and send it home with the kids/parents.  The school also uses this time to keep the kids reading over the summer.  They start the weekly meeting with a story, song, etc., and then they split the groups of kids up to do either gardening or another activity.

Caledonia School also has a garden club that will be meeting on Thursdays, April 28, May 5, and May 19.  They will meet from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

They also have a summer gardening program that will be on Thursdays starting May 26, meeting at 9 a.m.

The Boone County Master Gardeners and U of I Extension will help out with both schools’ club meetings. They will do a short educational activity, take care of the gardens, and other fun things.

Lisa Hepker, the 4-H Youth Development Educator for Extension will lead the summer gardening program at the Belvidere YMCA.  She will follow the Junior Master Gardener program.

The Boone County Master Gardeners and U of I Extension along with teen teachers will help to lead these sessions each week.

“They will meet on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.,” Hodge said. “Each week they will have different activities along with nutrition/cooking portion.”

On April 18, the Boone County U of I Extension held a “Gardens for Learning” program at the Belvidere YMCA that was open to the public.  It served as a “hands on program for parents and educators who work with gardens either at home or at school,” Hodge said.

Many exciting, teachable activities were taught to parents and teachers that they can do with kids in the garden.

For more information on the Junior Master Gardener program, visit  web.extension.illinois.edu/bdo/boonemg.

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