January 16, 2009

For the past six years, The Arboretum, a joint effort between the University of Kentucky and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, has introduced young people to the world of gardening and all its fringe benefits through the Junior Master Gardener program. This year, the eight-part series begins Feb. 5.

"Through the years, more than 80 children have participated in this program," said Roberta Burnes, The Arboretum's education coordinator. "It's a nationally-recognized certification program for local youth. Junior Master Gardener introduces the world of gardening with eight chapters of novel, ‘hands-on' activities for ages 8 through 12. The program includes a study of life skills and career exploration, then culminates the experience with service learning projects and recognizes children's efforts with a certification as a Junior Master Gardener."

Junior Master Gardener is an international youth gardening program whose mission is "to grow good kids by igniting a passion for learning, success and service through a unique gardening education." It's modeled after the larger, longer-standing program for adults, Master Gardener.

Junior Master Gardener engages children in group and individual learning experiences that instill a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment and cultivate the mind.

Burnes said Junior Master Gardener also inspires young people to serve others through learning and leadership development projects and rewards them with certification and recognition.

The program allows children to explore their world through meaningful horticultural and environmental science activities that encourage leadership development, personal pride, responsibility and community involvement. The program pairs service learning and volunteerism, preparing participants to make a positive impact in their local communities.

Peer and cross-generation mentoring occurs when Junior Master Gardener groups interact with Master Gardeners, community leaders and other volunteers. Junior Master Gardener participants can be mentors to younger youth by teaching them about horticulture.

Junior Master Gardener provides an opportunity for youths to interact and bond with nature. As they go through the program, they can learn how to conserve our natural resources and make knowledgeable decisions about the environment.

"This year our participants will help plan and plant in the Kentucky Children's Garden, currently under construction at The Arboretum," Burnes revealed.

The course meets over eight consecutive Thursdays beginning Feb. 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. Topics covered will include plant growth and development, landscape horticulture, soil and water, fruit and nuts, ecology and environmental horticulture, vegetables and herbs, insects and diseases, life skills and career exploration.

For more information or to preregister, contact Burnes at 859-257-9339 or via e-mail to rburnes@uky.edu. The Arboretum is located at 500 Alumni Drive in Lexington between Tates Creek and Nicholasville roads. The $45 cost includes all program materials, a T-shirt and a snack at each session.

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