Youth Awards

1st Place Winner

School Gardening Partnership with the City of Erie Public Schools

Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Erie County

Since 2018, Erie County Master Gardeners have spent over 150 hours per year sharing agriculture education with City of Erie public elementary school students. This includes conducting springtime seed planting lessons indoors and planting outdoor school vegetable gardens at all ten elementary schools with 1,000+ third grade students, as a component of the third grade science curriculum districtwide. After outdoor garden planting is completed at each elementary school, Master Gardeners then assist third through fifth grade students with summertime garden work, followed by fall vegetable harvesting with 1,000+ fourth graders. Garden produce is distributed among school families, or is donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania. A third component of the Master Gardener partnership with the Erie School District involves an after-school program, which takes place for eight weeks in the spring and another eight weeks in the fall. Teams of Master Gardeners, supported by ESD faculty members, conduct one-hour gardening lessons once a week at each school, with a total of approximately 135 students from grades 3 through 5. Significant learning and impact: As Master Gardeners embark on the fourth year of partnership with the Erie School District, we have already seen some of the “fruits of our labors” developing within the young students we meet in each of the Erie School District schools’ classrooms and gardens. Not only have several students reported that gardening and learning about plants is their favorite part of the school day, but many have announced that they have established their own home gardens with their families. They proudly carry home young plants that they have started from seed at school with the help of Master Gardeners, to continue growing on their own. During the COVID shutdown, Master Gardeners created 6-inch x 6-inch x 6-inch Take-Home Gardening Boxes, filled with seeds, planting experiments, recipes, and lessons. These boxes were sent home with each third grader in the District, to augment their science learning until the resumption of in-person gardening instruction. It’s encouraging to meet students and their parents in school gardens during the summer, and listen to them share with their older and younger family members what they have learned from Master Gardeners during sessions together during the previous fall and spring. It’s especially heartwarming to watch previously “anti-veggie” eaters eagerly munching on fresh garden produce that they themselves have grown, and experiencing healthy new eating opportunities.

2nd Place Winner

Learning Beyond the Classroom: The Wolf Trap National Park & Green Spring Gardens Extension Master Gardener Partnership

Green Spring Gardeners Extension Master Gardener Program
Fifth and sixth grade boys and girls from Title One schools join Boy Scout Troop 55 of the Virginia Boy Scouts to participate in “First Time Campers” at Wolf Trap National Park. First Time Campers is a collaborative partnership between Boy Scout Troop 55 of the Virginia Boy Scouts, Green Spring Gardens EMGs, and Friends of Wolf Trap, which is held in April and October each year. Its purpose is to give children an opportunity to enjoy an overnight camping experience that they might not otherwise experience. It includes several educational, outdoor “super activities” for approximately 75 campers. The EMG super activities are held in the Wolf Trap Woodland Garden, Wolf Trap National Park. They are developed and led by approximately 20 Green Spring Gardens EMGs. EMGs have used several different themes over the past two years, making capes which allow participants to experience the role a variety of pollinators play in nature, and developing flip books for participants to use in activities in the Woodland Garden then take home to use in their communities to identify pollinators, trees, and native plants. Participants work with a beekeeper, view bees storing honey, and try on equipment and clothes used by beekeepers. Goals of educational super activities are:
•        Experience skills associated with nature in a Woodland Garden.
•        Increase appreciation of plants and the natural world, and
•        Inspire people to think and act in sustainable ways

3rd Place Winner

Bellefonte Community Children’s Garden Family Discovery Days

Penn State Extension Centre County Master Gardener Program

Welcome to the Bellefonte Community Children’s Garden (BCCG), where children connect with nature. The BCCG is located 10 miles from Penn State University in the historic town of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to provide a living garden where children can explore, learn, and experience the sheer delight of growing.

For the last ten years, Family Discovery Days (FDD) were live public events held four times a year to celebrate the change of the seasons. Each garden event is theme-based, and all activities are hands-on. The children in attendance visit stations to learn, hunt, explore, and create. Each child makes something to take home and something to leave in the garden. When face-to-face was no longer possible, Master Gardeners came up with a different plan to include a virtual platform that would be interactive for the community. Hands-on activities, video instructions, and supporting posts and images were made available to parents and children on the Facebook social media platform. Activity Kits were pre-packed with supplies and made available at the Circulation Desk at the Bellefonte Centre County Library. If parents could not drop in at the library, an instructional video, directions for preparing activities, and a supply list were made available on Facebook. Each Family Discovery Days seasonal program was now accessible for participation over an eight to ten-week period. The switch to virtual learning for the BCCG Master Gardeners was quick and effective. Over 750 kits were given out at the first three virtual events. Through Master Gardeners and the Bellefonte Community Children’s Garden, young and old alike continue to connect with nature.