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Altadena, CA: Scripps Home Gardeners Reach Out to Kids

  • Subject: [cg] Altadena, CA: Scripps Home Gardeners Reach Out to Kids
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 07:12:19 EDT


Third- graders get lessons in how their garden grows
By Anissa V. Rivera , Staff Writer
ALTADENA -- Young hands work together with weathered ones, pulling at soybean plants, plucking a green bean from its vine, patting down the soil near a blooming iris.
Jane Meek can hardly believe the change two generations have made in a weed-ridden plot at Scripps Home in Altadena.
A new program, funded by a grant from the Pasadena-based Lluella Morey Murphy Foundation, partnered elderly gardeners and third-graders from Altadena Elementary School in "The Gardening Connection.'
Meek, a British transplant now living in Alhambra, is a horticulturist and volunteer at the Huntington Library, Art Galleries and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. She is in charge of bringing the two groups together every Wednesday, starting in March and ending this month.
Standing in the garden, replete with bell peppers, rainbow corn, soy, okra, corn, eggplants, radish, squash, tomatoes, zucchini, Japanese cucumbers, Meek said the program gave the children a fun education.
"We don't have so much a curriculum but a pleasure trip every time we meet,' she said. "We discovered miniature roses and cosmos and irises, growing underbrush. We joke that we keep taking land back, we're planting so many things.'
The two groups kept records on how an apricot tree in the back of the garden grew, then bloomed with flowers before finally bearing fruit. They made Mother's Day crafts and shared recipes for the rainbow corn they grew.
Becky McKnight, director of admissions and community relations, said the garden grows on the chemistry between five elderly ladies and 20 8- and 9- year-olds.
"We were always impressed with them, from the day they came,' Meek said of the children. "They share very well. They're humorous. They give us energy. They're a blessing. They teach us and we teach them. It's just life.'
Determined to prove they "weren't just old ladies,' Meek impressed the children with the pronouncement that together, their six gardening gurus had 400 years of expertise among them.
"It's therapeutic to be in a garden, for all of us,' she said.
Maria Buenfil, 79, said she loves the first batch of gardeners they have produced.
"I love it because of the kids,' she said. "They learn something here that they don't teach at school. I tell them it's not enough just to plant a seed. You have to water it and keep it growing. You have to be careful with it.'
Meek also extolled organic gardening, using a mixture of water and alcohol to get rid of bugs and leaf mold for compost.
Teacher Linda Benn said she will be happy to bring her next class back.
"This has given them an appreciation of the community,' Benn said. "They liked listening to the ladies' stories. They learned to be gentle with them. And now they're saying they want to grow their own gardens at home.'
Arms filled with beans, radishes, candy cherry tomato plantings, Khadejah Ray, 9, said he has cultivated his green thumb.
"It was kinda hard pulling weeds but I really enjoyed it,' he said.
Davieon McBride, 9, picked squash, cucumbers and beans to cook at home.
"I learned you have to be very patient so that flowers can grow,' he said.
Dayquion Watkins, 9, said he has developed the floral display at his home since the program began.
"I have lots of flowers, but I don't know what they are, I haven't named them yet,' he said.
Mary Gardner, 76, had to skip some gardening sessions because of radiation treatments for breast cancer, but she did not miss the final party.
"They've learned something they can do the rest of their lives,' she said.
Other gardening mentors include Vivian English, Clara Epps, Jeanne Guernsey, Gertrude Myers, Mimi Rector, Genevieve Valliere and Lucy Wilson.
Buenfil and the other residents will tend to the garden through the summer, until the little ones come back next spring.
"We want to make sure the garden stays beautiful for them,' Buenfil said.
Anissa V. Rivera can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4454 or by e-mail at anissa.rivera@sgvn.com .

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