SIDNEY — With so many events, fairs and activities canceled for the summer due to the ongoing pandemic, Sophie Nieport wanted to come up with something for children in the area to do that could get them out of the house.
“With everything being canceled, I was looking for some new opportunities to start something here in Sidney, for kids. I actually got the idea from a different soil and water office in Ohio. I thought that would be a really good way to offer something to local kids, but without having a large group,” said Nieport , who is the Shelby Soil and Water Conservation District’s education and outreach coordinator.
Nieport, with the help of gardeners at the People’s Garden, put together a kids summer garden series as a means of teaching children in the area about various gardening techniques used in growing produce, with an emphasis on utilizing resources to minimize waste. Currently, the series is open to children in the area ages 7 to 12 years old, but will likely expand next year to include more age groups, including adults.
“We have a different topic each session, and they’re mostly going to be learning the components of growing food, why growing your own food is important, and more conservation aspects of growing your own food, like with rain barrels and composting, and how we can utilize those resources without having to create our own,” Nieport said.
In addition to learning about a topic at each session, children pariticpating will participate in a hands-on activity and will get to eat a snack that’s been grown in the garden. This is all to help them gain a better understanding of how gardening works.
“We have a lot more ideas, and we’re wanting to grow on it for next year, for sure,” Nieport said.
For the first session, which was held Monday, the children participating got to dig around in the dirt at the People’s Garden, dissecting it and observing various “critters” that live in the dirt. Children got to identify each insect using various tools and talked about what each one’s role might be in the soil.
“They were amazed by how many living things are living just below the soil,” Nieport said. “They had a blast, and a couple of the kids knew more about the stuff than I did. They knew what kind of spider it was, what species, which was cool.”
A big part of the program is getting kids involved, usually with doing a chore so that they understand that gardening isn’t just playing in the dirt, but that it also involves work.
“I think kids now have a hard time getting outside and finding things to do. They’re glued to their electronics, so I think gardening is a good way to get them outside every day. They have to tend to those plants and make sure that they’re growing right, so it gives them something to do outside,” Nieport said. “Anyone can do it in their back yard, or even if they have a small porch or patio, they can have potted plants and they can grow their own food, no matter where they live.”
The kids summer gardening series is a free program offered by the Shelby Soil and Water Conservation District with help from the People’s Garden. Sessions are held from 10 to 11 a.m. at the People’s Garden behind Agape at 209 Brooklyn Ave. in Sidney. Future sessions will be held on Thursday, July 9, Wednesday, July 15, Wednesday, July 22, and Tuesday, Aug. 4. Anyone interested in registering their child for any of the classes can contact Nieport at 937-419-2589 or [email protected]
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.