MOUNT VERNON — Eight-year-old Samone Pritchett has never been much of a gardener, but she’s excited to get started.
Armed with the seed of a green bean and a sweet corn kernel, Samone said she can’t wait to get home and plant them in bins filled with dirt.
“When they’re all grown, I’m going to pick them and help my mom cook,” the Mount Erie Elementary School second-grader said.
Samone and about 70 classmates participated Thursday in the Washington State University Skagit County Extension Master Gardener’s “Discovery In Gardening — Is Terrific” (DIG-IT) youth education program.
“It introduces kids to how the garden works, from the growth of the plants to how it arrives in your kitchen and what to do with the scraps,” said Master Gardener Chuck Howell.
The program was started in 2002 by two teachers, Master Gardener Gail Messett said.
The format of the program has changed over the years, Messett said, but the goal has remained the same: Get kids outside and into the garden.
“They’re learning respect for insects and bees and flowers,” Messet said. “I think they go home pretty awestruck, actually.”
The program had six stations, including planting, art, composting and animal tracks.
At one station, kids learned about “carnivorous plants,” such as the Venus flytrap.
“If you put your finger in it, will it close?” asked 8-year-old Helena Culp.
At another station, students learned about compost and worms.
“Some of the kids aren’t out in nature much,” said Mount Erie teacher Tracy Catlin. “They just see things in a new way.”
But the favorite station every year has been the “plant dye” station, where kids use hammers on brightly-colored flowers to release the pigments onto fabric to create art.
Eight-year-old Alan Cibrian said he carefully chose the petals and leaves to put on his fabric. He especially liked how the bright purple flowers in each corner matched, he said.
Once he was done hammering, he was left with a colorful piece of cloth to take home.
Mount Erie has taken part in the DIG-IT program several times. It is one of the kids’ favorite field trips each year, said Catlin.
Less than half of the students garden at home, teacher Kevin O’Toole said.
“Kids who don’t have gardens get to learn about it,” he said.
The Mount Erie campus has a community garden that the kids get excited about working in, O’Toole said.
“It’s crazy how pumped they are to work in the garden,” he said.