Saturday, 15 July 2006

Junior Master Gardener.

Sonnie Feagley, Randy Seagraves, and Lisa Whittlesey. Horticultural Sciences, Texas A&M Univ, 2134 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-2134

The Junior Master Gardener ® (JMG®) Program is an international youth gardening program of the Cooperative Extension network. JMG Program is a 4-H project that engages children in novel, “hands-on” group and individual learning experiences that promote a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment, and cultivate the mind. JMG inspires youths to be of service to others through service learning and leadership development projects and rewards them with certification. In 2002, the JMG Program launched its first module of the Level 2 curricula – Operation Thistle: Seeds of Despair. This curriculum focuses on youths in grades 6-8. This first module of Operation Thistle teaches kids all about plant growth and development while pitting them and JMG Plant Intelligence against the cunning, evil Dr. Thistle. While engaging in their mission to defeat the nefarious doctor, youths will learn about plants' growth, classification, parts, needs, processes, and seed and vegetative propagation. This summer the JMG Program will release Operation W.A.T.E.R.: Dr. Thistle Goes Underground to provide hands-on learning experiences related to Water And The Earths Resources (W.A.T.E.R). This curriculum will utilize group, individual, and web based learning experiences to engage youth and teachers in this curriculum. This curriculum will have an engaging story line that encourages problem solving strategies, exploratory learning, and application of knowledge through service learning projects. The familiar theme will expand to cover soil concepts of soil properties, soil nutrients, soil improvement and soil conservation. The curriculum will also connect students to water concepts of water movement, aquifers, wetlands, watersheds, water cycle, and water conservation. In addition the curriculum will be complemented by interactive on-line e-learning modules that can be utilized by individual youths, teachers and school campuses as an additional educational resource. Operation Thistle is consistent with the JMG curriculum model to include independent and group learning experiences, life/skill and career exploration, and service learning opportunities for youth. All JMG curricula is correlated to academic standards with state partners providing state correlations to their respective state academic standards. Standardized test formatted reading passages are also included in the curriculum materials to support school preparation for state and national tests. Schools and communities are looking for ways to include “hands-on” science in the classroom. Students across the nation are being tested on their ability to demonstrate an understanding of the nature of sciences, life sciences, physical sciences, and earth sciences. School districts are looking for science curriculum that will help their students master the knowledge and skills required by the state mandated standards. Furthermore, in 1998 the State Education and Environmental Roundtable reported that integrating environmental education into students' curricula can improve their achievements in science, language arts and social studies. There is evidence of increased skills in problem-solving, critical thinking and decision-making, as well as gains in standardized test scores and grade point averages. Students are more enthusiastic and engaged in the learning process because environmental education provides teachers with a variety of approaches to help them relate studies to their daily lives. Research supporting the JMG Program will be presented. The JMG Program is the solution to sparking an early interest in soil and water concepts while integrating “hands-on” science in the classrooms and youth programs.

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