The North Carolina 4-H Grow For It program provides resources and opportunities to connect youth and educators to issues in agriculture and natural resources in meaningful ways. This initiative is striving to grow a generation of youth interested in investigating plants, insects and soils through experiential projects that fosters curiosity and wonder, inspire critical thinking and problem solving, build a positive science self-concept, connecting kids to good food and nurturing environmental stewards of the land through farm, garden and nature programming. This programming includes camps like the Resource Conservation Workshop or the Horticultural Science Summer Institute and contests like the state fair insect collection, honey bee essay and horticulture identification and judging contest.
Through the infrastructure of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension system, adult leaders are supported through curriculum development, resource materials, and training workshops to build their knowledge, enthusiasm and ability to deliver research-based programs for youth.
Liz Driscoll is the 4-H subject matter specialist that leads the Grow For It program. Liz loves tromping around gardens, woods, swamps and beaches, exploring interesting plants, soils and bugs and sharing their stories. Her favorite activities include grazing in the garden, stalking interesting insects, whispering secrets to snapdragons and building sand castles.
A Plant Geek’s Manifesto:
I believe that life begins the day you start a garden. I believe that this garden provides a special space to cultivate kids who brim with curiosity. Kids who burst with questions like, “why do the seeds of a dandelion float lazily through the air?” Or, “why does the ladybug, splendid in her flashy, scarlet cape sweep like a superhero to snack on aphids?” and “why do those aphids persist in finding my lettuce leaves so delightful?” “How can I tuck a single, simple, peanut seed deep into the soft folds of the soil and harvest a handful ready to roast or boil?
I believe the garden grows kid’s questions, similarly to lamb’s quarters sprouting after a spring rain. The garden becomes a canvas for encouraging critical thinking and creativity, fundamental skills that are important in the scientific process. Research studies suggest that youth garden programs build decision making skills, interpersonal skills, cooperative teamwork and that through growing plants, youth learn patience and persistence.
I believe the garden also spins stories of science and offer up tantalizing tales to inspire young listeners. The garden offers a gate through which science is accessible and exciting. Most folks might have a movie night, or sing songs around the campfire, but in my garden we have evening primrose parties. There is a story that unfolds in the mind as the sun sets and the petals of the primrose unfurl, shaking out secrets. Why does the flower open when the sun sinks in the sky? What pollinator is making mischief so late in the eve? So many questions and so many stories to explore.
North Carolina is a diverse, rich, agricultural state that also brims with natural spaces and both can consciously provide a viable future for the growing generation. Most of all, I believe the garden, the farm, the woods are special spaces, ripe with opportunities for youth of all ages, to wonder, investigate and daydream. Places that give kids a chance to chase faeries, nibble on arugula, wear sassafras mittens and play leapfrog.
This piece by PBS’ Food Forward (especially the first 9 minutes) tells the story of FoodCorps. It follows our own NC North Carolina fellow Caroline Stover as she meets with at cabbage farmer, works on developing the product, and leads kids through a cabbage slaw taste test.read more »
Sparks of Enthusiasm
When Leah Klaproth started growing sweetpotatoes with her classrooms, she hoped that they would love them as much as did. Turns out gardening can make a big difference!read more »