Shiawassee Camper’s Sustainable Garden and Sustainable Agriculture Education
During the 2013 season, the Shiawassee Conservation District coordinated a Sustainable Agriculture-themed education program for Camp Shiawassee youth participant, and assisted the Shiawassee YMCA in establishing raised garden beds at the YMCA Outdoor Center located on the Shiawassee River. Camp Shiawassee is the only state-licensed camp in Shiawassee County and is open to youth ages 5 through 12 with counselor-in-training opportunities for those ages 13-16.
Each week, the Shiawassee Conservation District met with the campers to deliver a lesson on Sustainable Agriculture including a presentation on a sustainable agriculture topic and group activity. Weekly lessons included:
Week 1 – discussed the concept of sustainable agriculture, explained types of vegetables, and planted gardens with the campers.
Week 2 – discussed the benefits of worms in topsoil and the different soil layers; conducted an adventure worm dig and made dirt cake with campers.
Week 3 – discussed the differences between garden, agriculture, and forest-type soils; campers completed a field study activity and made binoculars for observing the natural world.
Week 4 – discussed how sustainable agriculture produces the 5 food groups; completed build-a-pizza 5 food group activity.
Week 5 – discussed soil erosion and how soil loss impairs agriculture; conducted erosion in a bottle, soil splash zone and Enviroscape® demonstrations.
Week 6 – discussed aquifers and groundwater in agriculture and everyday use and how sustainable agriculture protects groundwater; conducted groundwater flow model demonstration activity and made edible aquifers.
Week 7 – discussed Michigan agriculture, crops grown in Michigan and sustainable methods of farming used in Michigan; campers made a map of Michigan crops.
Week 8 – local farmers from Carlin Centennial Farms visited with some of their animals (Tennessee Fainting Goat, Painted Desert Lamb, Black Java Hen, Harlequin Duck, Rex Rabbit, Lionhead Rabbit, and Holland Lop Rabbit) to discuss raising livestock using sustainable techniques.
Week 9 – discussed water conservation in agriculture and everyday uses; played globe ball toss game and water use game; campers made water quality bracelets.
Week 10 – discussed how composting turns waste into soil for next year’s garden; built a compost barrel to collect items until next year’s camp season; conducted a scavenger hunt for compostable items and prepared a stir fry lunch using crops raised by the campers in their gardens.
In addition to these activities, the Conservation District visited the gardens and interacted with the campers on the progress of the project. The campers provided updates on the gardens and took ownership of the gardens being responsible for maintenance activities. Daily, they watered, weeded and harvested crops as needed. Camp counselors prepared harvested vegetables for group lunches. Crops raised included, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, green beans, green pepper, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, basil and chives. These crops were used in the end of season luncheon stir fry party and weekly by the campers during lunch and snack times.
The Shiawassee Camper’s Sustainable Garden and education program was promoted using several different types of media. Initially, a joint press release between the Shiawassee Conservation District and Shiawassee Family YMCA was published in the local Independent Newspaper. Once the gardens were planted, a front-page color spread of the campers with the gardens was printed with an article in the Independent. Weekly, updates were posted to the District Facebook page with color photos and a summary of that week’s activities. Additionally, the District set up a Flickr photo sharing website to post weekly photo updates of the gardens progression. To wrap up the project, the Shiawassee Conservation District featured the program with a full-page write up with several color photos in the District’s newsletter.
During the summer of 2013, 435 youth participated in the program. Newspaper articles were distributed to 63,000 households in Shiawassee County and the Shiawassee Conservation District’s newsletter, mailed to 2,929 individual households. Facebook posts reached 1,160 individuals and the District’s Flickr photo sharing website is active and promoted by the District.
The Shiawassee Camper’s Sustainable Garden social media posts can be found at:
The Shiawassee Camper’s Sustainable Garden is also highlighted on the Shiawassee Conservation District webpage found at:
WORK PLAN for 2014
In 2014, a program write up describing the Shiawassee Camper’s Sustainable Garden and education program will be published in the Shiawassee Conservation District’s 2013 Annual Report scheduled to be distributed in February 2014. This program will also be highlighted at the District’s 64th Annual Meeting on March 20, 2014 with an informational display describing the program on each table for attendees to view.
The Shiawassee Camper’s Sustainable Garden and educational program will continue with another round of conservation education lessons during the 2014 Camp Shiawassee season. The Shiawassee Conservation District will again hold weekly educational sessions with Camp Shiawassee campers educating on concepts of sustainable agriculture and conservation while working with the camp to plant, maintain and harvest the gardens building upon concepts learned in the previous season. Composting will be a focus with composted soil from materials collected during the fall, winter and spring being utilized in the 2014 camper’s gardens. The Shiawassee Camper’s Sustainable Garden and Sustainable Agriculture Education Program has made an excellent program stronger and it will continue to bring conservation education to the youth of Shiawassee County.