Unless the planet is just revving up for another unfair late-season storm, it looks like spring has finally sprung in Woolwich Township. As kids look longingly from their elementary school windows at the sun-kissed parks outside, what activities will they be looking forward to?
“They’re going to be weeding, hoeing, cleaning, mulching, staking, pulling, thinning, hilling, picking the produce … and whatever else goes with gardening,” smiled Irene Dickau, who, along with Barb Finn, will be leading the Elmira Horticultural Society’s Junior Garden Club.Since its founding two decades ago by Elmira resident Lois Weber, the Junior Garden Club has offered adolescent botany enthusiasts a chance to learn the tips and tricks behind the perfectly-planted gardenia, and May 15 will see the club reconvene at Elmira’s Bristow Park, for applicants ages 8 to 10. Dickau and Finn, who are both retired teachers, will be taking on leadership responsibilities for the first time (Finn served last year as an assistant).
Citing the findings of Charlie Hall, a horticulture professor at the University of Texas, Finn lists the scientific benefits of getting kids in the garden: “Children learn better when they’re around plants, it’s a multi-sensory experience … people concentrate better in the workplace and have better memory retention; spending time in nature gives people better energy levels; gardening can act as therapy …”
“It gets them away from the video stuff,” interjected Dickau.
“That’s why we chose this year to focus on the 8-to- 10-year-olds,” added Finn. “We felt this was the age when kids like to become independent, and they like to be learning and teaching and helping their families.
“It’s a great intergenerational activity. It involves all the senses; it connects you with nature; it’s just good for body-mind-spirit.”
The Junior Garden Club has long used Bristow Park as its meeting place, although soon they will likely be sharing space with another Elmira youth initiative. On Monday night, Woolwich council formally approved Skate Elmira’s application to build a skate park in Bristow Park, the same area where the horticultural society holds its club and maintains its garden.
Does the group anticipate any conflict?
“I did raise that concern at one of our board meetings, and they indicated that there was no communication from the council indicating that we would be impacted in a negative way,” said Finn. “From my understanding, [council decided] that gardening is just as valuable as skateboarding, and they would work out both being able to handle that space.”
She added, “It is a large space, so I’m trusting that that will be honoured.”
Registration for the Junior Garden Club is $15. Space is limited, and granted on a first-come, first-serve basis to those who call 519-669-8616 or 519-669-3244.