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Growing and learning: Hamilton Garden Club set to host 10th annual “Kids in the Garden” event
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Growing and learning: Hamilton Garden Club set to host 10th annual “Kids in the Garden” event

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Karla Wiencek wants to make sure that no child ever sees working in the garden as a punishment, pulling weeds in the hot sun just so they can eat … vegetables.

But, wait … these peas are sweet! And look at the things you can do with that potato!

“Kids in the Garden” is the Hamilton Garden Club’s way of “promoting gardening as a joyful celebration,” according to Wiencek, who is the club’s self-described children’s activities coordinator.

The event will take place at the Marcus Daly Mansion from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 21. This is the 10th year that the club has put together the event, in cooperation with the Daly Mansion. The mansion has set aside an area for a children’s organic garden, near the parking lot, where the event will be centered.

The event is aimed at kids 3-12 years of age, but Wiencek adds that it’s also aimed at their parents and grandparents, who can either participate or simply enjoy watching the kids having fun in the dirt. All are welcome, free of charge, and Wiencek expects that close to 150 will show up.

The garden club is requesting participants bring a non-perishable food item, for donation to the Bitterroot Youth Home.

According to Wiencek, the event is also designed to “promote children’s literacy, and care for the natural environment in which we live — all in a fun, party atmosphere.”

That’s a tall order, but Wiencek and an experienced crew of volunteers have a day of activities planned, celebrating the joys of gardening. The theme of this year’s event is “Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children,” after the classic book by author and illustrator Sharon Lovejoy.

Five activity stations will present kids with hands-on learning activities inspired by the book. Trying to toss a bean-bag into a boot is a simple, fun activity, for example, but it also presents an opportunity to talk about what a bean bag is stuffed with – beans. And those beans are not only something you can eat, but they’re seeds you can plant, to grow more beans.

Other activities may include harvesting potatoes, and using them to make potato stamps; or creating “egg heads,” eggshell halves decorated with faces, filled with dirt, and planted with grass seed that will become the character’s “hair.”

Having garden-related activities is one thing, but eating fresh garden produce is quite another. Wiencek is hopeful that some of the crops in the garden will be ready for harvest, and that kids can prepare their own salads on the spot. The organic garden has been tended by a pre-school children’s play group, reinforcing the notion of gardening as a fun activity.

The activities are designed for parents and kids to come and go as they please, any time between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Additionally, the garden club has planned a few special events, including a 10th anniversary birthday celebration and a 2 p.m. performance by the “Whizpops,” a funny and popular group of early education teachers from Missoula who began writing songs and performing for children.

For a quieter time, kids can visit the “Garden of Reading,” where gardening-related children’s books, recommended by valley librarians, will help cultivate young minds.

The garden club has also been collecting “gently used books,” and each child attending “Kids in the Garden” will receive a token that can be exchanged for a book.

Wiencek hopes that kids who attend will learn a few gardening skills, but the garden club’s overriding goal is that kids will find that gardening can be fun in a number of different ways, and that they’ll fall into a lifelong habit of gardening.

For more information, call Wiencek at 546-8066.

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