A new club in town is perfect for kids who like digging inthe dirt and helping others.The Junior Master Gardener program, designed by Texas A&MUniversity’s Extension Service, has arrived in Georgia. Chaptersare sprouting up through the University of Georgia’s ExtensionService.A Lot Like the Adult VersionThe program is modeled after the adult Master Gardener program,a volunteer training for people who love gardening and communityservice. In the adult program, participants complete a horticulturetraining program and work as volunteers at a county Extensionoffice.The Junior Master Gardener program is similar to 4-H. It stressesleadership and community service. Along the way, the studentsalso learn about gardening.”The curriculum can easily be adapted for use as a club,by parents who home school their children or by church groups,”said Krissy Slagle, a program assistant with the Georgia MasterGardeners.”The lessons in the manual are horticulture-based,”Slagle said, “but they cover many other areas. For example,one lesson teaches math skills using fruits and vegetables.”Students get a certificate for each completed chapter and mustcomplete eight chapters to become a certified Junior Master Gardener.Each chapter includes club work, homework and a community serviceproject.Fayetteville and Newnan Clubs are FirstTwo of the first clubs in Georgia are in Fayetteville and Newnan.The Newnan club is a pilot program started by Master GardenerHeidi Roemer.”Istarted the club in February to fulfill my Master Gardener volunteercommitment,” she said. “I wanted to do something withchildren, and Carolyn Fjeran of the Coweta County Extension officerecommended the Junior Master Gardener program.”Roemer coordinates her club with Summer Grove, a local environmentallyfriendly community. “The subdivision contains a nature-friendlygolf course and bluebird houses throughout the neighborhood,”Roemer said.Roemer and eight members have bimonthly club meetings.”We’ve completed four chapters in the manual and are nowpreparing our community service projects,” she said. “Weplan to make pressed-flower bookmarks for a local convalescencehome and build a compost pile for the community.”Suzanne Rocus runs the Fayette County club, along with thelocal Extension Service program assistant and a handful of volunteers.The club started after Rocus won a program manual at a gardeningconference.”Our Master Gardeners were interested in starting theprogram, and our county agent supported the idea,” Rocussaid.Rocus wanted to offer the program through the school system,but with 13 elementary schools, it wasn’t feasible. She startedone chapter and has meetings twice a month at the county Extensionoffice, averaging 18 students.Learning About Community Service andGardening The children take the community service mission seriously.They bagged tree seedlings to be donated at the annual Christmastree recycling event. And to show their appreciation to the countyoffices where they meet, the club planted flower boxes to decoratethe building’s exterior. And in their current project, they planto grow vegetables for needy people.The club recently competed in and won ribbons at the SoutheasternFlower Show.”The program’s not only about gardening,” Rocus said.”The manual is full of wonderful activities that cover everythingfrom ecology to enriching reading skills. The kids recently madeapple sauce from fresh apples.”Junior Master Garden clubs are each as unique as their members.”Most of the children in our club come from families thatenjoy gardening, and they all love to get dirty,” Rocus said.Roemer’s students, however, have the green thumbs in theirfamilies. “Parents keep telling me not to send plants homeif I want them to live,” she said.Roemer, who has completed her required Master Gardener volunteerhours, plans to extend her pilot chapter. “I’m going to continuethe club another eight weeks,” she said. “I just loveit.”Learn more about the Junior Master Gardener program at http://jmg.tamu.edu.