Corps personnel help junior gardeners grow
June 11, 2013
By Leon Roberts
FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Several Corps employees shared their expertise today with kids participating in the 2013 Williamson County Junior Gardener Camp at the Agricultural Exposition Park.
"The objective was to grow the knowledge of young gardeners so they know more about watersheds, water tables, how wetlands function, and a little about water safety," said Mary Tipton, a biologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Planning Branch.
Four different age groups from first through sixth grades participated and were organized into gardening teams that included the Silly Sprouts, Peppy Peppers, Wacky Watermelons, and Cool Cucumbers. Each group rotated through the Corps presentation titled "Understanding water with the Corps of Engineers - Protecting our resources."
Tipton welcomed each junior gardener group and then Richard Graham, a gardening enthusiast and regulatory specialist, and Park Ranger Dean Austin from Cheatham Lake shared their expertise to help the youngsters grow their knowledge in science and safety.
Graham used a model to show how wetlands hold water and act as a natural water filter. He poured very dirty water into the box with dirt and rushes and then water came out the bottom into a glass jar where the kids could see how a wetland could help purify it as it makes its way into the water table. He also talked about the vegetation and wildlife that are found in wetlands.
He said the kids paid close attention and soaked up the information he presented like a sponge. "When you learn something at that age it sticks with you," Graham added.
James LaRosa, a service hydrologist with the National Weather Service, also partnered with the Corps and demonstrated how rainwater is captured by dams and retention ponds to mitigate flooding.
"What it does is capture lots of water and slowly releases it out over time, kind of like a wetland does," LaRosa explained to the kids.
Connor Craig, 9, a wacky watermelon, said he liked the rainwater demo where model homes were swept away from flooding. He said he also enjoyed seeing how wetlands can filter water as it works its way into the water table.
"I would have never known that dirt could make it all that clean," Craig said.
He said the Corps presentations were "cool" and what he learned about water safety will also help him.
"Now I can be a little safer on the water," Craig said. "I think the most important thing to do is calm down and get on a life jacket."
Organizers of the event said a partnership with the community volunteers makes it possible to teach the campers about gardening and related topics.
Ann Harvey, co-chair of the Junior Gardener Camp, said the event is allowing 61 kids at this year's camp to learn and to have fun doing it.
"We're running a five-day morning camp with all sorts of activities and all sorts of speakers and they're having a great time," Harvey said.
She said the volunteer speakers, like the Corps, make the difference.
"They volunteer their time and teach wonderful life lessons to our children - from gardening to water safety to erosion, watershed control, everything you can imagine," Harvey said. "The Corps of Engineers came this year to talk about water. We had a wonderful time talking about water and the kids loved it."
The Nashville District participates at events like this that encourages learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
(For more information about the Nashville District, go to www.lrn.usace.army.mil. Please follow the district on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and Twitter at www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. For more information about the Junior Gardener Camp, visit www.wcmga.org.)