By Meg Little
July has been an active and exciting month for UMass Permaculture! While tending to the plants, soil, and dogs vomit(add attachment), we have also had the pleasure of bringing in kids groups from the surrounding area to have some fun and learn about permaculture. Groups ranging from Shutesbury Elementary, Marks Meadow Summer Action Program, and Amherst Community Child Care, among others have joined us in our garden, totaling six groups in all since the onset of summer.
It is a win-win for everyone involved, as the children get the chance to be outdoors and learn about local food, we get some valuable work done as they help us with our garden tasks, and we all get to play exciting games at the closing of our trips. Garden games have ranged from scavenger hunts to tomato-tomato-basil (a new and improved version of duck-duck-goose) to Bears fishes mosquitoes (a chase-filled game of rock paper scissors).
For me, the most exciting part of working with children and gardening is watching their walls come down as they immerse themselves in their earthly activities. Seeing a rambunctious young boy tenderly patting down the soil around a newly planted parsley or watching a delicate young girl getting her hands and clothing dirty as she throws compost over a squash plant are very beautiful experiences. It tells me we are creating a safe, comfortable space for them to experience the world however they wish, something that can be hard to come by for many children these days.
Through all the fun and games, I do hope that the kids take with them a memory of happiness while working with the earth. I hope that someday in later years they’ll think on that sunny day they worked in a garden and be inspired to go out and do it again. To have had an impact on these kids, however small it may be, is a humbling and rewarding experience for us, and for that I thank the groups that came out and joined us in our garden!