|“Learning Lizards” Flourish in Outdoor Classroom|
The JMG (Junior Master Gardeners) Learning Lizards are from Whitesburg Middle School in Huntsville. Mrs. McQueen and Mrs. Bramlett lead this group of 79 hard-working, enthusiastic kids. The group consists of Mrs. McQueen’s 6th grade Science Classes and Mrs. Bramlett’s Science Clusters and it is their first year using the JMG program.
The JMG group meets as a part of their science classes where they do a JMG activity every Friday. The students work through the JMG handbook. Whenever possible, they have volunteers come in from different community groups to work with them. Some of the groups are The Master Gardeners of North Alabama, The Huntsville Men’s Garden Club, Optimist Club of Huntsville and April Waltz (AWF). Ken Creel, an Alabama Cooperative Extension Agent, is also a big part of the JMG activities.
As the group works through the Alabama State Course of Study, they pull from the JMG handbook to get hands-on learning activities to bring the concept to reality.
The group has completed several activities and has enjoyed them all. One of the group’s favorite JMG activities was setting up phase one of their birdhouse trail. Part of the activities will be making homemade (class made) bird suet the students will put out at school and some for them to take home.
Another of their favorite activities was the interpretation of what a hamburger plant is. Each member was told to illustrate what they thought a hamburger plant would look like. Then they discussed how all parts of a hamburger actually come from a plant. Students displayed their work during the Parenting Day activities.
The group is also involved in service learning projects. The group participated in a "Green U Campus Clean Up Day," where they cleaned up the school’s campus including pruning the shrubs.
Their main service project for this year is to begin building an outdoor classroom for their campus.
"We have started with a dry creek bed, turtle habitat, frog abode and a bird sanctuary that will actually encompass our whole campus," McQueen said, sharing the group’s ambitious and worthwhile plans. "By the end of this school year, we plan to have our hydroponic greenhouse, aquatic-studies area and weather station up and going!"
The JMG Learning Lizards were recognized as the National December Group of the Month and have received notification they have won one of the National Aero Garden and Seed Kits Growing Kids Awards. This means they will be getting an Aero Garden for their classroom.
"That makes the third grant we have gotten this year, so we are off to a great start building our outdoor classroom. YEAH!!!," said McQueen.
The teachers believe the students have really enjoyed the lessons and activities they’ve been engaged in.
Luci Davis is the State Junior Master Gardener Coordinator. For more information on the program, phone (334) 703-7509.