Children are getting their green thumbs earlier and earlier these days. That is what happens when you join the Kiwanis Children’s Garden.
Located at the Gloucester Township Police Department Family Resource Center, the Children’s Garden held its third annual opening day to kick off the season on Wednesday, May 1. Parents and children came out to enjoy an afternoon of recreational activities like shuffleboard and basketball, and the children were able to pet a therapy chicken.
The garden acts as a way for Gloucester Township children to get some fresh air and work with children their own age while doing a wholesome activity.
For the opening day, the children were also able to plant sunflower seeds and take them home after planting the seeds in soil inside an ice cream cone. Ice cream cones are completely biodegradable, which helps when transporting the plant to the ground or a garden.
The program is headed by Michelle Selfridge, chairperson of the children’s garden. Selfridge is also a social worker for the GTPD.
“Once a week, the children will come in, they will plan their own garden,” said Selfridge. “Each week, there is a theme like bees or insects or some horticultural nature type thing, and we have an activity and a storytime that goes with that.”
The activity will come after the watering and gardening is done. The program is free for Gloucester Township children through the sponsorship of the GTPD and the Kiwanis Club of Gloucester Township/Blackwood.
The children get to keep whatever they grow. However, if there is a plethora of crops grown during the season, the children’s garden will deliver some of the extras to nearby apartments.
Parents are encouraged to participate with their children.
Bill English, a Kiwanis Club member, is extremely active with the children’s garden thanks to his two sons Julian and Miles.
“Wwith my sons, they are constantly on the phone or an iPad. This gives them the opportunity to come outside and get their hands dirty and dig in the garden,” he said. “They learn the process of growing a garden, and they learn about the animals and insects that help it grow.”
There are also lessons on conservation and crafts, along with the learning process.
The children are taught how to use tools and how to use the environment to help grow their seeds. For example, earthworms and ladybugs are two insects that contribute to the growth of plants, and those are two creatures they try to cultivate.
You don’t have to be born with a spade in hand to work in the garden.
“When you do gardening, pretty much anyone can do it,” said Selfridge. “It’s not so much that you have to learn, but sometimes there is pruning, like when we do radishes. You have to get rid of half the radishes you plant because they choke each other.”
Over the summer, they will plant and learn about a variety of vegetables and plants, like pumpkins, squash and tomatoes.
This year, the garden has been expanded with the addition of four beds. The children in the program now can have their own plot to take care of at their leisure.
The responsibility of taking care of a garden is something the Kiwanis Club bestows upon the children.
“A lot of the things you can learn from nature you can relate to other people and getting along with people. Each child is going to be sharing a four-by-five-foot section with another child, so they have to make decisions together. They have to take turns doing what they need to be doing with the garden,” said Selfridge.
An important message is to take care of everyone, including each other.
The group meets once a week at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Family Resource Center. For more information on the program, contact (856) 842-5553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.