Teaching the Younger Generation

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Last nite, I attended the first career fair at the East Windsor Middle School.  Walking through the front entrance, I glanced over to see a plaque on the wall with letters in bronze stating the school was erected in 1966.  “Hmm, I thought, a couple years before I was born.”  I don’t have many memories of walking into this place but I sure do remember the cafeteria, where the career fair was being held.  I was asked out by a boy that I did not like, and I remember a food fight one day too in the cafe – yes, we had food fights back then and wouldn’t get arrested for it.

Software DeveloperNot knowing what to expect, I started to unpack my materials to show the kids during the evening’s activities.  To my left, two software developers located in my home town had quite the nice setup with laptops and big screens to show the students how coding is done for various app’s and games.  To my right, a balloon maker.  How is one to compete with that? LOL.  There was also a veterinarian, hairdresser, accountant, land surveyor, and more.

First to arrive, two young gentlemen, saying they like plants.  I showed them things like a quick flow chart of the steps I take in my landscape design process, photos of befores and afters, explaining the digital imaging concepts and CAD rendering scaled documents, and where I went to college, how I took Master Gardener Program later, and the importance of knowing about soil, nutrients, botany, and especially “the plants.”  But I didn’t elaborate too long on that because I know their attention span would get bored looking at a rotating power point screen, so I quickly had them take a look at my landscape program and give it a trial run.  This is when their faces perked up.

They loved trying out the program, clicking and dragging the plant options.  In fact, one of them placed an ornamental tree in the same exact place I did on my true design of the image prior.  Patting him on the shoulder, I told him just that.  I also pointed out that their generations, with their intense participation of technology, will be teaching “us – the older gen” new applications in the world of landscaping and horticulture.  “I’m just keeping up,” I explained.

The software developers next to me were showing how to create applications for smart phones, and I showed them new app’s I’ve loaded on my iPhone as tools for what I do, like a “color wheel app” for designing, and a “bug finder” app for plant problems, and even a Square Up app so I can take credit cards during sales at shows and farmers markets – but all the while, I explained to them – you have to know the plants, the site, the conditions, and the exposure, etc.  All of these tools can be helpful – but your study of horticulture is more important if you want to go into this type of work.  “You have to know the plants,” I emphasized again.

Cathy T talks to studentsA group of young ladies came by.  As they approached, I asked, “Who here likes plants?”  One gal pointed to her friend and she nodded with agreement.  “Here’s you go – a free perennial catalogue for you,” I said.  They told me they have been designing a courtyard at the school in the back, and how long it has taken to draw their designs to scale on graph paper, so as you can imagine, showing them the CAD rendering of my program spoke to them immediately.  Again, same speech about learning, and the importance of knowing the plants, soil, botany and more, then they all gave the program a trial run.  They gravitated directly to the beautiful perennials in the program as they clicked and dragged through the landscape program’s features.

Towards the end of the evening, a solo young lady came by.  She asked more question than the others.  She wanted to know about an insect she has seen on the shrubs infront of their house recently.  We talked about the process of id’ing insects, and I showed her a new app I loaded on my iPhone with a database of insect photos and reference information.  Explaining the Master Gardener program to her, I gave her instructions to collect the insects, put them in a container, put in the freezer and bring them to the Tolland Agricultural Center on Hyde Road in Vernon, CT, where the Master Gardener Interns there will take a look at them to id them, and even put them under the microscope for a thorough look.  She wrote the information down to share with her parents later.  “By the way, this service is free,” I told her.  See: http://www.ct.gov/caes/site/default.asp

The other cool part about being at this event is I was able to share the conceptual design images I have started for the BMX/Skate Park being built in East Windsor on Reservoir Road.  See http://www.freewebs.com/ewbmxskateboard/.  They liked the idea of the tire planters, and it also reminded them the park will be open soon to enjoy.

And I also told them membership to the Connecticut Horticultural Society (www.cthort.org) is free to students with a valid student ID.  Maybe one day, a teacher, or perhaps myself, will arrange a group ride to a one of their program meetings in West Hartford, CT.  Their last speaker was on water gardening – they would have loved that.

Overall, I was impressed with the young students’s interest.  When asking them if they knew the difference between a perennial and annual, one boy quickly defined them to a “t” saying, “Perennials grow year to year.”   As they looked at the program, I explained how there are many different types of shrubs from deciduous to broadleaf evergreens, and the importance of knowing about invasives, and why.  We don’t want to plant a thug or one that will over take someone’s yard, explaining Purple Loosestrife we often see taking over open fields in our town as an example of invasives.  See: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/cipwg/

At the end of the evening, the program coordinator told me they had the same look in their eyes that she has seen when teaching, meaning they were taking the information in.  I hope so and if yes, perhaps a new young gen designer will be born.  My only regret, I should have brought some plants along to compete with those fun balloons by the balloon maker and the cool computer displays by the software developers next to me.  …Duh, its about the “plants.”

Thanks for visiting my blog post Cathy T

 

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