FRANKLIN, Tenn. (June 4, 2013) – Several Corps employees shared their expertise today with kids participating in the 2014 Williamson County Junior Gardener Camp at the Agricultural Exposition Park.
“Being here is so much fun, our main objective was to grow the knowledge of young gardeners so they know more about how wetlands function, important plants, and watersheds,” said Mary Lewis, a biologist, Customer Outreach and Silver Jackets coordinator in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District, Planning Branch.
Four different age groups from first through sixth grades participated and were organized into gardening teams that included the Busy Bats, Spunky Spiders, Happy Hummingbirds and Midnight Moths. Each group rotated through the Corps presentation titled “Gardens for giving,” with the Corps of Engineers.
Lewis welcomed each junior gardener group and then Casey Ehorn, a wetland biologist from the Regulatory Branch shared his expertise. To help the youngsters grow their knowledge he explained carnivorous plants, subtropical wetlands, water storage, habitat, insects, and how plants grow and survive in wetland areas.
Ehorn used a Venus flytrap plant to show how wetlands hold water and help plants grow. He used a small piece of moss to trigger tiny hairs on the plants inner surfaces. When an insect or spider crawling along the leaves contacts a hair, the trap closes.
The Venus flytrap is a small plant whose structure can be described as a rosette of four to seven leaves, which arise from a short subterranean stem that is actually a bulb-like object.
“The best thing I learned is the plant can help keep your house clean by eating bugs,” said Bobby Johnson from the Happy Hummingbirds who answered a question about the plant correctly and earned a plant to take home. “This is so cool,” he said.
Ehorn poured potting soil into a box with water and mixed it to show the texture and then re-planted a Venus flytrap. He allowed the children to take part in the process and talked about the vegetation and wildlife that are found in wetlands.
He said the kids paid close attention, wanted to get their hands dirty in the soil and the class was an excellent Science, Technology, Engineering and Math project.
“It is really important that we continue to do these type of STEM projects, and gardening programs for our kids,” said Ehorn. “It allows them to expand their minds because these kids are very smart and absorb so much information,” Ehorn added.
Alyssa Savage, a Happy Hummingbird, said she liked the information about Venus flytraps and how they interact with other plants and things they eat.
“I learned a lot of things about the Venus flytrap and how it works,” Savage said.
She said the Corps presentations were “very cool” and what she learned about wetlands and plants will also help her in school.
“I’m much smarter now since I know how the Venus flytrap works,” Savage said. “I think the most important thing to do is to take care of our wetlands and the environment.”
Organizers of the event said a partnership with the community volunteers makes it possible to teach the campers about gardening and related topics.
Melody Delk, former co-chair of the Junior Gardener Camp and instructor for the Midnight Moths group, said the camp is a five-day morning camp with all sorts of activities and all sorts of speakers from the community and the event has 60 kids at this year’s camp.
“The Corps is doing wonderful job teaching about wetlands and the kids are really paying attention to their presentations. We’re running a five-day morning camp with all sorts of activities and all sorts of speakers and I think this is a good one,” Delk said.
She said the volunteer speakers, many like the Corps, make the difference when they provide great knowledge.
“By learning this information, I hope our kids become more proactive about taking care of the plants, wetlands and our planet,” said Delk. “These volunteers have provided so many life lessons to our children and I think they are having a great time,” said Delk.
Sonya Craig, Junior Gardner group Chair said the groups rotate through four activity stations each day, and take part in everything from planting and educational games, to crafts and informative speaker sessions.
“We are glad to have the Corps here to explain how wetlands, plants and environment work together,” said Craig. “The Corps are experts at what they do so, it makes it easier for the kids to understand the information provided,” she added.
The Nashville District participates at events like this that encourages learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
(For more information about the Nashville District, go to www.lrn.usace.army.mil. Please follow the district on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and Twitter at www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. For more information about the Junior Gardener Camp, visit www.wcmga.org.)