written by Haley Lockwood, AES intern
A seed planted in 2007 continues to blossom for Master Gardeners – and delight mothers – in Powell.
The program teaching local students about plants started seven years ago after a Thanksgiving dinner discussion between Bob Prchal, Park County Master Gardener, and his sister, Judy DeBock, a second grade elementary education teacher at Parkside Elementary. They wanted to expose children to an age-appropriate, first grade science program.
Two first grade classes started the program, and the Master Gardeners now reach up to 10 classes. The children are taught the six basic plant parts, the purpose of good bugs and bad bugs, special plant characteristics, importance of worms, bug cages and transplanting.
Students receive instruction in the greenhouse at the University of Wyoming Powell Research and Extension Center (PREC).
“The plants, varying from a vegetable to an annual flower mix, give the childrenhands- on experiences to apply concepts taught in class as well as a Mother’s Day gift after the plants are acclimated,” said Prchal.
Prchal draws from many for the hands-on tours to create the best possible learning experience for children, such as the Park County School District, the Master Gardeners, local teachers and administrators, PREC staff members and Blair’s Grocery Store.
Prchal and other Master Gardeners obtain fresh produce from Blair’s for an educational tool explaining where fruit and vegetables come from in relation to a plant.
Teachers are looking for interesting ways to meet school standards, build them to gain greater interest from students and engage the students.
“When we ask the kids to write a prompt at the end of the school year, more than half of the students write about the tour,” said Jane Faulkner, a teacher at Parkside Elementary and involved in the program since its inception.
Students rarely realize they are learning math, science and reading when visiting the greenhouse, said Faulkner. She said Prchal made adjustments to what the kids learn and know and build from what is already taught in schools.
“(Prchal) wants to know standards so everything taught can be tied into the curriculum, so it is well worth it,” said Faulkner.
More than 1,000 people have visited the greenhouse – first graders, 4-H’ers, teachers, parents, grandparents and Master Gardener trainees.
PREC interim director Mike Moore and Prchal believe the greenhouse is underutilized and hope more community members take advantage of the learning opportunities.
“We want people to come out and feel welcome,” said Moore. “They don’t understand that they are welcome, and they need to.”