Jr. Fletcher, Morgan, Johnny W.
AMELIA – The LSU AgCenter recently partnered with the St. Mary Parish School System to provide a Junior Master Gardener program for third, fourth and fifth graders.
Dr. Bobby Fletcher, LSU AgCenter area horticulture agent, said the La-Terre Master Gardeners, working with J.S. Aucoin Elementary School, will conduct hands-on sessions to compliment the school’s Grade Level Expectations program.
"Our Master Gardeners have been working with Sonia Clements, the elementary school teacher, who is the point of contact for making the program a success," Fletcher said.
The Master Gardeners held a community kickoff project to improve the school’s entrance in preparation for a recent U.S. and Louisiana flag dedication by state senator Butch Gautreaux. Master Gardeners, teachers and parents all pitched in.
"Our workday went so much better than I ever imagined," Clements said, explaining that the collaboration of parents, students, school staff, Master Gardener volunteers and community volunteers showed what can be accomplished with teamwork.
Clements pointed out that the beautification of the front flower bed motivated other students to show an interest in working on future projects.
"The Junior Master Gardener program will give third, fourth and fifth graders the knowledge they need to implement the many gardening projects planned for this year," Clements said, adding, "I so appreciate the help and support the Master Gardener volunteers and the LSU Ag Center provided."
Dr. Donald W. Aguillard, St. Mary Parish school superintendent, was at the flag dedication, along with Joseph Stadalis, the school principal, in addition to the teachers and students.
"I am pleased to acknowledge the assistance of the LSU AgCenter and La-Terre Master Gardeners in providing the students of J.S. Aucoin with a hands-on botanical environment that will facilitate many science discovery lessons. This learning area will expand opportunities to infuse relevance into the adopted curriculum," Aguillard said.
Cheryl Skinner, the La-Terre Master Gardener’s president, said her group is really excited about their involvement.
"This is what junior master gardening is about – teaching and working with our youth. We had a great time working together to make the flower bed," Skinner said.
Fletcher said this is just the first phase of a yearlong project for the Junior Master Gardener program at the school.
The next phase will involve growing bedding plants for the landscape and vegetable plants for a school garden. In May, the students will sell plants at the Bonne Terre Garden Fair in conjunction with the La-Terre Master Gardeners.
Skinner said this project will last through this school year and is a good example of how volunteers like the Master Gardeners can expand the outreach of the LSU AgCenter to reach a more diverse audience with research-based information.
Fletcher said the Louisiana Master Gardener program is offered by the LSU AgCenter and is designed to recruit and train volunteers to help meet the educational needs of home gardeners while providing an enjoyable and worthwhile service experience for volunteers.
For further information on the Louisiana Master Gardener program or the Junior Master Gardener program, contact Fletcher at (985) 446-1316, or visit the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.