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Starbright Campers Enjoy Day Out With Union County Master Gardeners

Campers, ages 5-13, visited Demonstration Gardens in Watchung Reservation in July for activity stations, which included Insects, Trees, Harry Potter Gardens, among others.

On July 10, 2012, the Master Gardeners of Union County hosted a day of learning and fun in their Demonstration Gardens for children and counselors from Camp Starbright in Scotch Plains. 

Starbright is a Bereavement Day Camp for children ages 5-13.  The Camp was founded in 2002, following the events on Sept. 11, 2001.  This was Starbright’s 4th annual visit to the Master Gardeners in their Demonstration Gardens, located at Trailside in the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside. 

Master Gardener Laurie Westra, of Cranford, coordinated the event. During the visit, the MGs guided the young campers through Six Activity Stations. These included: Insects (staffed by the MG’s Garden Helpline); Trees (staffed by Union County Master Tree Stewards); the Herb and Harry Potter Gardens; Nature’s Paints; a Berry Patch Garden Tour, and a tour of the MG’s flagship Community “Sharing” Garden, where they learned to identify types of vegetables, helped pick beans, and engaged in a “match-the-seeds-to the vegetable” exercise. They also learned about composting. At their final stop, the potting bench area, the MGs helped each child pot a flowering begonia to take home. 

Starbright Camp Director Melissa von der Heide (of North Plainfield), who holds a Masters Degree in Behavioral Sciences and a Professional Diploma in Marriage & Family Therapy (Kean University, Union), said, “the children enjoyed their time spent with the Master Gardeners and used what they learned when returning to camp. Many of the children replanted their begonias at home, having learned to pot them with the Master Gardeners.” 

“The following week, on July 17,” said von der Heide, “the Master Gardeners also helped to clean up our Memory Garden at Acadia House in Scotch Plains, where the camp takes place. The children planted more begonias and decorated rocks there in remembrance of their loved ones.  Following the visit to the Master Gardeners,” she added, “many of the children shared how excited they were to have learned to color with flowers and other things found in the garden. They proudly showed off their artwork to their families.”  Noting that “the children's favorite activity while at Trailside was catching butterflies and later releasing them,” she reported that, “on July 19th, the children participated in our Remembrance Circle and did a butterfly release.”

Camp Starbright is sponsored by the Center for Hope Hospice and Palliative Care (Scotch Plains).  The camp meets at 175 Glenside Avenue (Scotch Plains) for a two one-week period every year during the month of July.  The camp is free, thanks in part to the generous grant from The Moyer Foundation, The Tom Burnett Family Campership Endowment, and the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Municipal Alliance.  For more information, visit www.centerforhope.com under Hope Programs, (908) 654-3711, OR contact Camp Director Melissa von der Heide at campstarbright@centerforhope.com.

The UC Master Gardeners are self-supporting, trained volunteers who assist the Rutgers, NJ Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Cooperative Extension in its mission to deliver horticultural programs and information to the general public.  They often host groups of children in their Demonstration Gardens. 

Want to become a certified Master Gardener?  The course of study is offered on Tuesdays (10am-12:30pm) from October through May at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, 300 North Avenue East in Westfield.  To enroll in the MG Program or for more information, call Judy LaGagna at (908) 654-9854 or visit mastergardeners-uc/org on the Web. 

Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) is an equal opportunity program provider and employer. Contact your local Extension Office for information regarding special needs or accommodations.   Contact the State Extension Director's Office if you have concerns related to discrimination, (732) 932-5000, ext. 584.

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