Children's Museum of the Shoals

Recently, my friend and Master Gardener, Janna Whitley, contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in helping her with an Organic Gardening workshop that she would be conducting on May 8, 2010 at the Children's Museum of the Shoals in Florence, AL. She was wondering if I would like to talk about good bugs and bad bugs; specifically about how "good" insects could be beneficial in the control of "bad" insects like aphids. After thinking it over for about one second, I quickly replied that I would be ecstatic to assist with such an event! Who wouldn't want the chance to talk about bugs?

Janna identified a few insects for me that she was interested in teaching the kids: lacewings, aphids, assassin bugs, pirate bugs, praying mantis, and especially ladybugs. A great list! What kids wouldn't want to learn more about an assassin bug or a pirate bug?! So we set out to create some reference cards to illustrate each insect and also provide a cool fact or two about them. . Such as, did you know that aphids are a type of "alate"- that is an insect that can grow wings as the need may arise? In other words, when a host plant becomes overrun with aphids- the next generation of the aphids may be born with wings so that they can fly away and populate other plants. Nature is kind of cool that way. As the scientist character says in the movie Jurassic Park- "nature finds a way." I am attaching a slideshow of the insect reference cards. ( A special thanks go out to contributors Tom Murray and Lynette Schimming for allowing me to use their photos of a Pirate Bug and Lacewing, respectively.)

The Children's Museum of the Shoals is a fantastic place! It is located at the entrance to Deibert Park. The design and decor of the building itself literally draws kids to want to stop in and explore. It is a building of bold, primary colors- which naturally draws attention- but what really gets the kids' attention- as well as adults- is the 20 to 30 foot catfish that adorns a tower wing of the museum. That catfish alone is reason enough for my six year old son to want to visit! But inside, it is even more cool. Almost all of the exhibits are hands on- with fossils, prisms, gravel pits, a river exhibit, tools, etc.- kids are encouraged to do, and touch- rather then- like at a lot of museums- look, but don't touch. Several of the parents commented to me how that their kids can spend hours in the museum without becoming bored or wanting to head right home. That is the best kudos that I can think of for the folks that operate the museum!

The Organic Gardening workshop that Janna was conducting was another of the museums "hands-on" exhibits. When my kids and I arrived at the museum, the shovels, rakes, spades and plants were arranged ready for the kids to pick up and begin working. Three large planting boxes had already been filled with rich dirt and tilled. It looked as if three other families were there to help: about 10 kids altogether. Janna got a few of the kids busy raking the dirt to loosen it up for planting and also directed a few in the exercise of breaking up large dirt clods. Afterwards, she instructed the kids in how to dig the holes for the plants- and then all of the kids- from the age of 4 on up to about the age of 10, quickly planted lots of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. While they were planting, Janna taught them about the plants and the reasoning for the planting of the various flowers and herbs (to help attract "good bugs" that would then help in the control of the "bad" bugs, the aphids.)

A huge thanks goes out to the folks at the Children's Museum of the Shoals and Master Garderner Janna Whitley for hosting such a great event!


Wanda Mouzon said...

This is fantastic! This is the kind of thing I am hoping to do at my neighborhood park which, thanks to Janna, is planning a community garden as part of the park remodel!

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Wow, Daniel! What a great opportunity/fun time for YOU and an outstanding program for children. I've not yet visited the Children's Museum of the Shoals but that is now #1 on my List of Things To Visit! Good on you, my friend, good on you!

Eve said...

This looks like it was really fun Daniel! The gardens turned out great and I love the fish in the house!
Did you mention that you know a little girl who fed marshmallows to a Praying Mantis???