Clallam County Master Gardeners each year bring their expertise to local schools through the Youth Enrichment Program. Submitted photos

Clallam County Master Gardeners each year bring their expertise to local schools through the Youth Enrichment Program. Submitted photos

Get Kids Growing: Master Gardener Youth Enrichment Program Celebrates 25 Years

Herbie, a Scarlett Runner Bean puppet, is turning 25 in 2020. Herbie has been educating Clallam County second-graders every spring for two-and-a-half decades!

Herbie is the star of Youth Enrichment Program (YEP), an initiative started by education focused Master Gardeners in 1995.

With a little creativity, many of the program’s elements can model a great way to get your kids growing.

The program was developed to encourage children to get excited about gardening. It has been continually updated over the years to keep current with educational styles and teacher recommendations. By the end of the season (March and April), Master Gardener teams will have reached out to every second-grader in Clallam County.

YEP includes both public and private schools located from Sequim to Forks and Neah Bay on the west end, with all communities in between. After 25 years, the number of students touched by Herbie and YEP number in the tens of thousands! Ask your kids if they know Herbie!

The YEP program consists of five segments which fill an hour-long presentation. The first segment introduces the student to some plants which are opposites — big and small, old and new. Colorful pictures of plants, as well as live moss, are shown to the students.

Herbie, the star of the show, makes his appearance in the second segment. The entire life cycle of Herbie, from being in a seed coat to the actual production of new seeds, unfolds before the students’ eyes.

Next, it’s on to how seeds spread and the many ways that plants help people. Everything from food to firewood to clothing, to shelter to erosion control and plant-generated oxygen is covered. Children love this discussion segment and offer many interesting insights.

Then it’s time for a fun hands-on project where every child gets to plant a root viewer to start their own seeds and watch the roots grow. Students fill small plastic cups with soil, then, using a Popsicle stick as a planting tool, plant the following seeds: a bean, a sunflower, a corn, a pea, and two radish seeds. The seeds are planted at the outer edge of the plastic cup so when the roots start to grow they are visible.

The presentation usually ends with the students role-playing the life cycle of Herbie. Suggested classroom observation projects are provided to teachers. Care instructions, especially about transplanting, are included to encourage children to plant their seedlings at home — hopefully engaging the whole family.

The students are encouraged to visit the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden on Woodcock Road in Sequim and the Fifth Street Community Garden in Port Angeles. You can combine that with a trip to the library full of wonderful books on gardening with children.

Herbie’s job in the classroom ends in April, but look for Herbie at the Irrigation Parade in May and the county fair in August.

Our thanks to the many dedicated Master Gardeners who have kept this program thriving and improving over all these years to get kids growing!

For more information about Master Gardener activities and education programs go to clallammgf.org (select “Events” to find Herbie) or extension.wsu.edu/clallam/mg.

Marilynn Elliott has been a WSU Clallam County Master Gardeners since 2003 and is a Youth Enrichment Program Team Leader.

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