Across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, next to the aquarium, delightful exhibits at the Camden Children’s Garden feature everything from butterflies to dinosaurs. The work of the Garden’s staff reaches into Camden’s elementary schools through its Grow-Lab program, which is funded by the Subaru of America Foundation.
Since 1985, the Camden City Garden Club, Inc. has been actively involved in the city of Camden and the Delaware Valley. The club makes hands-on experiences available to the public to show how gardening is fun, easy and enjoyable to everyone. Among the Garden Club’s activities are educational programs, community gardening and greening, the Camden Children’s Garden and youth training.
Part of the Garden Club’s work with young people is its employment of high-school students during the summer months. These students go through job training and work on urban greening projects – cleaning up city-owned lots and transforming them into community gardens.
Since 1989, the Garden Club has offered a Grow-Lab program to Camden’s elementary schools as an outgrowth of its community gardening efforts. Supported by the Subaru of America Foundation, the Grow-Lab program integrates mathematics and science with horticulture. Involving thousands of children per year, Grow-Lab incorporates the K-8 curriculum and activities guide developed by the National Science Foundation.
The Grow-Lab is a small indoor greenhouse consisting of two tiers of planters and an adjustable grow light on a stand. Once the Grow-Lab is introduced to a classroom and the planting is done, the Camden Children’s Garden staff visits every two weeks to help ensure that the plants grow.
Students plant and tend their garden in two cycles. The first is in the fall, when they plant a salad garden. They determine planting times and the number of seeds as well as measure distances between plants. They also learn nutrition and the value of vegetables in their diets. At the end of the first cycle (near the winter holidays), the students have a salad party, to which they invite their parents.
After the holidays, the students grow flowers during the Grow-Lab Program’s second cycle. The flowers usually blossom in time for the spring holidays and Mother’s Day.
This hands-on program introduces students to the most popular form of recreation in America – gardening. Plus, as a natural outgrowth of the program, students learn about the environment and their roles in helping to prevent pollution. Most of all, the Grow-Lab program piques the students’ interest in learning.
In the words of Mike Devlin, executive director of the Camden Children’s Garden and president of the Camden City Garden Club, “Gardening can take you anywhere.”
Find out more about the Camden City Garden Club, the Camden Children’s Garden and their programs at www.camdenchildrensgarden.org.