COLLEGE STATION — A Junior Master Gardener National Leader Training was held in College Station recently, bringing together teachers, volunteers and Extension faculty from Texas and 18 other states.
The training was held so attendees could gather knowledge and experience for Junior Master Gardener programs, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension program specialist and International Junior Master Gardener Program curriculum director Randy Seagraves.
“This JMG National Leader Training was a fun, intensive and fast-paced training conference that included everything from hands-on learning of novel JMG lessons to understanding how to build sustainability in garden programs, to developing custom, local JMG implementation plans,” Seagraves said.
The three-day event covered curricula overviews, panel discussions and training workshops targeted at the Learn, Grow, Eat and GO!, or LGEG, curriculum project.
“The Learn, Grow, Eat and GO! curriculum is a game changer for campuses wanting to implement a school garden,” Seagraves said.
“It’s not only research and evidence-based, it’s developed by teachers to be a step-by-step school garden project that grows academic achievement, lets kids try nutrient-dense vegetables and garden kitchen recipes, and lets them have fun with brain- and body-boosting physical activity breaks,” Seagraves said.
There’s a growing body of research that has established that kids benefit academically, physically and emotionally from gardening, he said. And since kids do not always have a family tie to a garden for their initial exposure, it is becoming more common that teachers are the ones to make the first garden connection with students.
Lisa Marie Dunn, coordinator of Gifted and Talented and Advanced Academics at Laredo United Independent School District, spoke as one of the panelists and shared her experiences with the LGEG program and her implementation processes.
“I hope everyone understands the value of teaching our youth how to grow local, nutrient-dense foods and how to be good stewards of the land,” Dunn said. “School gardens and getting to know vegetables seem to be a little foreign to our youth in this modern age, so providing them with an opportunity to put their hands in the dirt and eat what they grow is invaluable.”
Dunn plans to host a JMG training for Laredo United ISD teachers working with school gardens this summer.
“It is my dream to see local, organic vegetables from school gardens in school cafeterias,” she said.
Specifics of the training included:
- Utilizing curricula resources, breakout sessions.
- Implementing best practices, project-based learning, managing students and groups.
- Accessing group/class registration, recognition and certification options.
- Involving local county extension personnel, volunteers and parents into programming.
- Reaching schools, after-school programs and clubs.
- Preparing/leading JMG teacher training workshop events.
- Generating funding to support programs.
- Building sustainability through community collaborations and partnerships.
- Utilizing program resources and marketing materials.
- Developing custom implementation plans.
“We know that our teachers, administrators, leaders and volunteers leave the JMG training equipped and empowered to impact their schools and communities,” Seagraves said.