Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kids gardening workshops mark Earth Day

One of the best things about my job as a writer and editor for The Macomb Daily and Daily Tribune is the opportunity to meet superstars.
John Cusack, Cybil Shepherd, Doris Roberts, Jerry Lewis and Suzanne Sommers spring to mind.  
Talking to a Hollywood diva who once dated Elvis was cool.
But what I really love is the opportunity to get to know the superstars in my own community, who share their passion and expertise in so many warm and wonderful ways.  
Since joining the Macomb County Food Systems Collaborative last year, I've met a whole team of said whiz kids, including Jean Persely, mom, Marine vet and Master Gardener extraordinaire.
In addition to her own military service, Jean is also the wife of a former, active duty marine. As such, she and her family transferred to Macomb County’s L’Anse Creuse school district some nine years ago.
Soon afterward, Jean embraced her signature “bloom where you're planted” philosophy and started a school garden at LC’s Atwood Elementary.
Building on that accomplishment she has continued to bring people together around her love for good food and agriculture by establishing the Macomb County School Garden Initiative. She also serves on the 2011-2012 Kids Gardening board,, an advisory group to the National Garden Association.  
But lest you see her in too responsible of a light, she is also the person to whom I confessed eating a Hostess lemon pie on the way home from MCFSC’s first, Farm to Fork conference in February. She was OK with it.
With her “outdoor classroom”, Jean has done everything from design, build and install gardens, to teach Junior Master Gardener classes. Science lessons have been incorporated; but so, too, have lessons in math, social studies, Spanish, Language Arts, music and PE.
What's really neat is that when the conversation turns to Victory Gardens, Native Gardens and Sunflower Houses or demos on take-home salad pots and worm composting, students become especially motivated to "dig in!" Jean said.
To further spread the love  – and celebrate Earth Day, April 22 -- Jean and Kathe Hale, an educator for the MSU Macomb Extension and MCFSC’s fearless leader, will present “School Gardening 101”, May 14 from 5 to 8 p.m. The cost is $20 a person and identical workshops will be offered in Oakland and Wayne counties, May 3 and May 10 respectively. Topics include: How to choose the best site for a garden; soil improvement; crop selection based on a spring or fall harvest; incorporating garden lessons into existing curriculum and much more. Ideal participants include school (community and faith-based) garden coordinators, teachers, food service directors, volunteers and parents who want to learn more about how to work and play in the dirt with kids.
The Oakland County workshop takes place at the MSU Tollgate Education Center and in Wayne County, at the MSU Extension office. For more information or to register, visit or call (586) 469-5180  To check out Jean’s school gardening blog, visit: To further immerse yourself in Jean’s humor and expertise, “Compost Happens”, go to  Searching for ideas to develop your own, garden-based lesson plan? Visit For a chance to win a Growums Gardening in a box kit, “Like” Macomb Daily Features on Facebook. 
If all goes according to plan, my 8-year-old daughter and her friends will soon be learning more about vegetable and herb gardening via Jean’s too-cute pizza garden project – it calls for an actual pizza box.  
Watch out Little Caesars. Your competition is green, but growing.
Thank you, Jean. 

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