With spring weather finally here, the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center is hoping to encourage outdoor activity and education with a local community children’s garden.
Mike Sherman, children’s recreation coordinator for The Trudeau Center, and Jennie Finn, respite coordinator for The Trudeau Center, came up with the idea to teach children who utilize the facility about nutrition and plant life by planting a garden behind the Larkin Recreation Building at the Center’s property.
Finn, an intern at the University of Rhode Island Master Gardener Program, and Beth Ann Coletta, a fellow Center employee and gardening enthusiast, took charge of the project, holding a kick-off craft during last week’s New Frontiers Adventure Program.
Finn said that the weeklong program is hosted over both February and April vacations, as well as two weeks in the summer. Earlier in the week, participants enjoyed various trips across the area, however, Friday was a day of fun at the Recreation Building. One of the activities for the day was planting flowers and vegetables in empty soda bottles.
With a number of volunteers, Finn and Coletta set up a gardening station with water, soil, seeds and three different examples of pots, which could be made from soda bottles.
“It will teach them nutrition and self-sufficiency,” Finn says of the project.
Each child was encouraged to plant two items, one to be taken home and a second to be kept at the center. Those left at the center will eventually be replanted outdoors.
Finn was surprised by the enthusiasm for an activity that was optional for the day.
“Almost every child brought in their own soda bottle,” said Finn.
Children had the choice of planting sunflowers, tomatoes or green beans. Coletta said that the URI Master Gardener Program donated more than 200 packets of seeds. Finn added that an individual donated a few starter plants as well.
Currently the site of the garden behind the Recreation Building is not ready for planting. Finn and Sherman hope to clean out the area. They plan on starting small.
“It is mostly the start-up costs [that we need help with],” said Finn. “But if there is enthusiasm from the kids, I hope to keep it going.”
Finn has a variety of ideas for the garden, which they hope to begin planting by the end of April. She envisions a few raised beds, a sunflower house and vine plants growing on trellises.
She also hopes someone will be able to donate a rain barrel, which will allow for the collection of rainwater to sustain the garden.
It is the hope of the organization that the garden will teach children about healthy food systems, nutrition, water conservation and even allow for the study of insects.
Sherman says the greatest lesson he hopes the kids will learn is responsibility. They will have to help maintain the garden throughout the summer months.
As for the vegetables that are grown, it is possible that they will be used in cooking lessons taught during the after-school and summer programs.
One of the greatest benefits Finn sees, in addition to education, is finding a way to bring kids back outside.
“It is just fun: a fun, hands-on learning activity,” said Finn.
The staff is now working hard to solicit more donations to help with the project. In addition to the seed donation from URI, Finn said the West Shore Road Garden Center provided peat and the Airport Nursery provided a number of plants.
Currently, the following items are still needed for the project:
• Untreated wood for raised beds, plus one smaller bed
• Garden soil
• Tools and gloves for kids
• Rain barrel
For more information on The Trudeau Center’s Children’s Services, Recreation Program or to find out how you can donate, contact Mike Sherman by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.