Summer Camps

Posted by on Aug 22, 2018 | Comments Off on Summer Camps

Summer Camps

Written by Tianna Washington and Jordan Johnson

The summer is an amazing time for any child. Who wouldn’t feel an outrageous amount of excitement away from school? They can finally spend time as they wish, which is why when they choose to spend time in the garden, it’s a pretty big deal! This summer two Charlottesville area day camps brought students into the CSG gardens for some fun growing and eating the summer harvests: Southwood Boys and Girls Club, which was held at the Jackson-Via and Burley-Moran gardens, and Greenstone on 5th, which was held at the Buford Garden.

We (Jordan and I) came with ideas of what the plan would be for our summer programs and what we wanted a small group of first and second graders to engage in during the summer in the garden. With a solid plan, our first day of camp jitters went towards keeping a group of eight year olds engaged in scavenger hunts and sensory hunts in the garden for two hours. Which was immediately changed when the Southwood campers arrive and they were a lot older than what we originally thought. I remember when Jordan saw them as they were walking over to the garden, he was shocked saying things like “Wow. They’re a lot older than I thought.” Now imagine going through a lesson meant for eight and nine year olds with eleven and twelve year olds–kind of difficult. When it was realized that our plans weren’t going to work there were some quick changes. 

Once the groove was started, the camps were packed with activities with a TON of excitement about the cooking. The kids lead us to adjust up our weekly visits as 50% garden and 50% cooking. Campers would pick veggies from the gardens and go through all the steps to bring it to the table to eat. Step that up a bit and add an outdoor stove top and you can imagine this was pretty popular. Most of the snacks were different variations of stir fried leafy greens like kale or chard mixed with garlic, peppers, or herbs (simple but tasty). It was exciting to look past the stereotypes about greens and kids, because they loved every step of it. The kids really enjoyed the pulling the veggies out of the ground and seeing them at every stage in between a plant in the ground to a food on their plate.

Although we had our go to recipes–we also took this summer to do some experimenting as well. We had an array of recipes from this summer–each week highlighting a different crop in the garden. Southwood compared the taste of cucumbers in vinegar with with pickles that we prepared and sat in the brine for a few weeks—which was a big hit. Some even said they wanted to try to make their own pickles at home. Greenstone on 5th spearheaded our new favorite salsa recipe…which made a bigger commotion than I thought it would. Everyone loves salsa! Right? We started creating a salsa before telling everyone what the end result was to have them guess. I guess watching a bunch of tomatoes and peppers turn into slush would initially confuse anyone. It wasn’t until the tortilla chips were pulled out that it all clicked. Turns out it was pretty good salsa and we brought the recipe to the Southwood camp where it was an equally large hit.

We also did a lot of harvesting in each of the gardens. We harvested things by the bed/tree including peaches, kale, meaty tomatoes (which some ate like an apple), Collards, Swiss Chard, and peppers. Although all these are tasty, a non-food harvest was the Zinnia picking. Every camp someone was harvesting and giving away flowers. Some kids created bouquets to share with others back at camp while others put them in braids. They often left with many beautiful,bright, sunburst colored flowers.

One of our favorite days this summer was beetle hunting day. Greenstone on 5th  kids were put on beetle patrol while emptying a kale bed that had been overrun by the Harlequin beetles. This consisted of grabbing spent-kale and dipping it in soapy water to prevent the beetles from relocating. This, as you can imagine, split the room, with half excited to get the job done and the other half taken aback. We all had an opportunity  to talk about the common pests that we find in the gardens at the schools and how to remove them without the use of chemicals. 

Thanks to the hard work of all of the camp kids on those hot, muggy summer days, we have beds ready for the fall, summer produce has been put into bellies and we excited for the new year to start.