Kids Cultivate Green Thumbs at Bloomfield Camp

By Brad Drazen
|  Thursday, Jul 28, 2011  |  Updated 9:39 AM EDT
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Nature is the classroom for students at a science-enrichment program in Bloomfield. They are learning the science of gardening.

Nature is the classroom for students at a science-enrichment program in Bloomfield. They are learning the science of gardening.

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Kids are working down on the farm in Bloomfield and learning the in and outs of gardening as part of the summer education program at the picturesque Auer Farm.

Instructor Susan Van Kleef knows her way around a garden, but she is teaching from a scientific angle.

"It's sort of a science enrichment program along with the goal of having them appreciate gardening," the veteran teacher said.

The campers do whatever needs to be done in the garden: harvest, plant, weed and water.

They've studied processes, including photosynthesis and pollination, and conducted chemistry experiments on the soil and its nutrients out in the beauty of nature's classroom.

"They probably absorb it better. They can explain it better, understand it better. It seems more motivating to them and enriching to them to learn it that way," Van Kleef said.

Brendan Shepard, an eighth grader, doesn't shy away from science. He's just surprised at how much of it is involved in tending a healthy garden.

"It kind of opens your eyes about how complicated this can be even though it looks really simple," the student from Canton said.

The campers harvest the vegetables they grow, plus some of the blueberries in the patch across the 120 acre farm and cook part of their afternoon snack.

"On Monday we made pickles, Tuesday we made blueberry muffins, yesterday we made pizza," Rachel Leibin, a sixth grader from West Hartford, said.

Armed with new-found expertise, Brendan has high hopes that he'll finally get a garden plot of his own at his Canton home.

"I've been trying to get that for a couple years, but my dad said 'when you're a little older and I know that you're good enough', so after this probably, yeah," he said.

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