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Youth Programming and Collaboration at its Finest

By Dawn Fradkin, Arapahoe County Master Gardener Coordinator and Assistant Horticulturist

In early 2022, Clayton Elementary School in Englewood contacted the 4-H Outreach Programs Supervisor, Claudia Meeks. The school was interested in having a gardening club program to integrate its school and community garden into its after-school programs. Claudia reached out to the Colorado Master Gardener (CMG) Program knowing that the CMGs were already involved in the Clayton Garden and had some youth classes already developed. Within a few weeks Kris Nelson, one of the master gardener team leaders at the Clayton Garden, helped Claudia develop a new pilot program for this 4-H youth outreach request.

Photo: 4-H Outreach Programs Supervisor Claudia Meeks with Clayton students

During this eight-week program, 17 students learned about what plants need to grow, plant structures and functions, garden planning and planting, the “cycle of life” including water and energy, and “Don’t Yuck my Yum,” an adventure in tasting new veggies. One week taught about challenges homesteaders faced growing food on the prairie, and the Plains Conservation Center and Denver Botanic Gardens helped to provide materials and pioneer costumes for the day. For another class, a beekeeper from Hudson Gardens came to teach about beekeeping and pollinators and the students made a beeswax candle. The programming for each week included presenting CORE-STEAM content, hands-on activities which included art projects, and having the students journal about the changes in the Clayton Gardens to increase awareness and observation skills.

Photo: CMGs Kris Nelson and Judy Racine with the Clayton students

Later in June, Claudia and Kris teamed up again to apply for a CMG mini grant to help Arapahoe County formalize the development of the program and offset the costs of supplies to make more program kits. Arapahoe County was awarded $800 from this mini grant.

The collaboration does not stop there either! We will be working with Douglas County soon; they also won a mini grant for a very similar project and Arapahoe County will be teaming up with them next to continue developing this programming.

More information is available about 4-H Youth and Community Programming and about the Clayton Garden.

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