Getting down and dirty in summer camp

It’s a few minutes before class will start and 6-year-old Elix Danahue, 10-year-old Elizabeth Lankist and 11-year-old Karis Williams are looking forward to the day’s lessons.

The children are in a class being taught by Eden Santiago-Gomez.

The three children are among a group of 21 in a Farm to Table Summer Youth Camp, offered by the University of Florida/Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences and Pasco County Extension in Dade City.

Eden Santiago-Gomez helps children in a Farm to Table Summer Camp work on an experiment. The youths next to Santiago-Gomez, from left, are Isel Chavez, Alan Guzman and William Lopez. (B.C. Manion)

“It’s a summer camp that teaches kids how to grow their own food,” said Gomez-Santiago, who is the Extension Office’s community gardens program assistant. Among other things the camp teaches is “the importance of nutrition, as well as water conservation,” she said.

All three kids said they’ve been enjoying the camp and would recommend it to friends.

That may be due to the teacher’s approach. She limits how long she talks and instead concentrates on letting kids learn by doing.

She also brings in guest speakers to give the kids a deeper look at various topics.

It’s the first time that Gomez-Santiago has offered a summer camp for kids, but it won’t be the last. There’s a possibility she could offer this camp again near the end of the summer, if there’s enough demand.

Otherwise, she’ll likely offer it twice next summer, she said.

“Each day, I have a different theme. The first day was Gardening 101,” Santiago-Gomez said.

“Yesterday, we talked about good bugs vs. bad bugs,” she said.

“They got to do a scavenger hunt, where they looked for these good and bad pests, and different elements that plants need.

Each day of the week has had a different emphasis.

On Wednesday, the children focused on learning about the importance of conserving the environment.

Gomez-Santiago asked the kids to tell her what they knew about pollution, then she shared some video clips on the topic.

Next, they did an experiment that involved making edible water bottles.

Later in the morning, an agent was slated to visit the class to talk about vermicomposting, which uses worms to turn food waste into compost called worm castings. Worm bins tend to take up less space than traditional compost bins and can even be kept inside.

“Kids will get to make their own little bins and will take them home,” she said.

Other days of the week involved lessons on food conservation, aquaponics, different forms of farming and gardening.

There was even a visit planned involving an agricultural agent to talk about chickens and manure.

Karis and Elizabeth said they especially enjoyed the gardening.

“I’ve always had a knack for gardening,” Elizabeth said.

“I like gardening,” Karis agreed.

Elix said he pretty much likes everything about the camp.

“It’s just so fun,” the 6-year-old said.

Published June 13, 2018

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