DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. " Members of the Child, Youth and School Services program here are using their gardening skills to learn about healthy eating, entrepreneurship and how things grow.

The Detroit Arsenal Garden Project was inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" Initiative and the 4-H training program "Let's Get Growing, Gardening with Kids." The project provides youth services staff a resource to encourage healthy eating habits while teaching youth life skills which include food nutrition, environmental stewardship, horticulture, recycling, reclamation, conservation, and entrepreneurship. It involves Child, Youth and School Services (CYS) children at every age group from our Strong Beginnings Pre-Kinder gardeners to our High School youth.

The project currently has 15 elevated beds. They include vegetables, flowers, an American Flag garden and the Pizza Garden which is a circular garden separated into six slices where the ingredients of a pizza; tomatoes, peppers, oregano, basil, onions, and yellow marigolds representing cheese, are planted. The Project will ultimately include a prairie sunflower house, four bean tepees, three Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head potato gardens made out of reused tires, a square foot garden for school age youth, and two red worm composting bins to provide natural fertilizer for the beds.

The kindergarteners built scarecrows made out of planter buckets containing flowers they planted from seed as hair. The faces are drawn on construction paper, laminated and taped to the buckets, and dressed in old clothes they brought from home. The MST youth planned the landscape and planting layout, built and painted the raised beds and containers and planted the vegetable beds. The project was carried out under the supervision of Dave Galer, MST CYPA, with woodworking resources provided by the 4-H MSU Extension.

The project will also utilize the 4-H Michigan Jr. Master Gardener program. With the help of certified 4-H Master Gardener volunteers, interested MST summer camp youth will participate in a two-week training program and become certified as Junior Master Gardeners. These youth will in turn come to the CDC twice a week and teach gardening to the School Age and Strong Beginnings children. Produce from the beds will be used to supplement CDC, SAS, and MST summer camp menus; entered into the local 4-H fair by MST & SAS youth; and will be made available by MST youth for sale to parents and staff as part of the 4-H Entrepreneurship & BGCA Money Matters programs.

The Project has been well received by youth and parents alike.
“The gardens are very creative and I love the patriotic flag garden,” said Patricia Giltinan, mother of Austin in the toddler room.

“I think the flowers are super pretty and I love tomatoes,” said Lordina, one of the students in the kindergarten room. Max, in “kindergarten almost first grade,” said “I like the scarecrows the best. I like how they used their flowers for their hair.”

Stop by the CDC and take a look at the gardens and what the youth have been working on.