Anthony 4-H Club breaks the mold
As Gisella Robles, Leavenworth, picked an ear of corn from the Anthony 4-H Club garden, project leader Linda Heim offered a tidbit.
"The number of hairs on an ear indicate how many kernels are inside," Heim said.
Heim, a kindergarten teacher at Anthony Grade School for 16 years and 33 overall, leads the non-traditional Anthony 4-H Club along with school nurse Donna Mulholland.
The club, based at Anthony School in Leavenworth, differs from traditional clubs in that it involves more group projects than individual ones.
"We're much like traditional clubs in that we conduct meetings and have parliamentary procedure," Heim said. "We just don't need to do fund-raising."
The ear of corn comes from the club's garden on the Anthony school grounds. The garden has produce such as corn, tomatoes, dill and various flowers, along with a compost area. The club and the garden are in their second year. Along with horticulture, Heim has also introduced public speaking and photography to the group that ranges in age from first-graders to fifth-graders.
The involvement in the school's impresses Heim, who grew up in an urban area and married a farmer. She now lives on a farm. She said 4-H exposes children to many activities.
"This dispels the myth that 4-H is just for farm kids," Heim said. "It's the best out-of-school program."
Nontraditional clubs are fewer in number, but some are being created. Gisella said that the Muncie Grade School club in Leavenworth has planted sunflowers.
Although the Anthony club is involved in various activities, the garden is its biggest project. It stands in front of Anthony Grade School's main entrance.
In the spring, the group designed a layout of the garden and Brad Reynolds, a member of the 4-H Master Gardner Program, implemented the garden with the club. Reynolds is also involved with traditional club Friendship Valley.
"He has so much patience," Heim said. "He gives them a lot of hands-on experience, too."
The Anthony club has roughly 30 children, but because of other summer activities, that number dwindles to 12 in the summer. Heim said that even though members can't always be there, their interest doesn't dwindle.
Gisella and twins Kayla and Kyle Oatney, all incoming third-graders, are the most frequent attendees during the summer. The club meets from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. every other Monday as opposed to once a month for traditional clubs.
The garden is the favorite project for Gisella, Kayla and Kyle.
Gisella's favorite flower in the garden is the spider flower, and her favorite activity isn't usually high on an adult's list of things to do.
"I like to pull weeds," Gisella said.
Heim said that during the spring, when weeds would get thick, she would announce to classes that the garden needed to be weeded. Club members, and even nonmembers, donated recess time to clean up the garden.
Kayla enjoys weeding in the summer as well, along with picking vegetables. She also said she learned new things about planting flowers.
"I thought you just dug a hole and threw them in," Kayla said. "But it matters how big the holes are."
Kyle's favorite vegetable in the garden is the cucumber, but he also enjoyed planting the zinnias.
When the vegetables are grown, the group divides the produce among its members.
The only major problem with keeping up the garden is visits by deer from a wooded area southeast of the school.
"They need to eat, too, I guess," said Patty Oatney, mother of Kayla and Kyle.
Along with trying to maintain the garden, the group also planted some marigolds and hollyhocks under a tree east of the garden.
Heim said the group has tried to beautify the school, and hopes to do more in the future.
How long Heim will be a part of that is uncertain.
She was a 4-H leader in traditional clubs for 15 years 10 as a community leader.
"I'll probably do it until I retire," Heim said.
In the meantime, the club has entered produce and flowers in the Leavenworth County Flower and Garden Show in late June.
Heim said the club did well at the show and will have entries in the Leavenworth County Fair. For Heim, the club's focus isn't about accumulating ribbons.
"I don't pay much attention to ribbons they're already winners," Heim said.