Posts Tagged ‘sfeawards-youth projects’

2017 Youth 1st Place (tie) – Garden Lesson in a Box, Spokane County, WA

Friday, June 9th, 2017


Children and Ladybugs

The Washington State University Spokane County Master Gardeners involved in our Youth Program have created seven core gardening lessons geared toward children in Kindergarten through 6th grade.  These lessons were designed to be presented to the Spokane Public Schools after-school child care program called Express, but they have also been presented at a variety of other locations such as public and private school classrooms, church groups, scout troops, and boys’ and girls’ clubs.  Over the past 11 years, we have given these presentations to over 10,000 children.

Each “Garden Lesson in a Box” consists of a syllabus, list of materials, background resource information, and supplies needed for the presentation, all contained within a portable bin which can be easily transported to the presentation site.  The seven lessons with a brief description of each, are:

  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:  Garden Creatures:  Using pictures and life cycle models to start, children are introduced to nine different garden creatures (Colorado potato beetles, banana slugs, ground beetles, earwigs, spiders, aphids, praying mantis, ladybird beetles, and pillbugs/sowbugs) and their significance in the garden.  The children then observe and interact with live specimens.  For safety reasons, the children are allowed to handle only the pillbugs/sowbugs which they have to hunt for in open containers of compost. The children color drawings of the creatures and also plant flower seeds in newspaper pots of soil to take home.
  • Three Sisters:  The children act out the Native American story of the three sisters and learn the importance of corn, beans, and squash to the Native Americans and the principles of companion planting.  The children sow seeds of these three vegetables to take home and also color and label pictures of them.
  • Soil:  Children learn the function of plant roots, observe the different components of soil, and learn the value of compost as a soil amendment.  They hunt for living creatures in partially-decomposed compost and learn the function of each in the decomposition process.  The children color pictures of compost creatures and sow vegetable seeds to take home.  Singing along to the song ‘Dirt Made My Lunch’ by the Banana Slug String Band is a fun part of this lesson.
  • Pollination:  Using large felt diagrams of flowers, the children learn the flower parts and their functions, and the role that pollinators play in seed production and food produc
    Three Sisters lesson

    Three Sisters lesson

    tion for humans.  They observe real beehive components and learn how visits to flowers benefit bees.  They sow flower seeds to take home and also color pictures of flowers.

  • The Seed:  Using pictures and large models of bean seeds, the children learn the major parts of a seed which they then identify by dissecting lima beans.  They learn the conditions that seeds need to sprout, and they observe the process of seed germination in pre-planted demonstration materials.  The children create “Personality Pots’ where they sow seeds of rye or radishes in cups of soil on which they have drawn faces (as the seedlings grow, they create “hair” for the face).
  • Vegetable Garden:  We read the book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, a Common Core text exemplar and funny story about the edible parts of plants.  Then the children are shown real vegetables and identify which parts are eaten by humans.  Using a 4’x4’ square of brown felt as a garden plot and vegetables made from felt, the children lay out a vegetable garden, learning about spacing, sun exposure, succession planting, and vertical gardening.  The children sow seeds of vegetables to grow at home and draw pictures of their dream vegetable garden.  We also sing along to two songs by the Banana Slug String Band, ‘Sun, Soil, Water, and Air’ and ‘Give Plants a Chance.’
  • Trees:  The children act out a fable about deciduous and evergreen trees and learn about the value of trees for humans.  They examine cross-sections of tree trunks, identifying the major parts, and estimating tree age. They make crayon rubbings of different leaves, examine various tree seeds, and plant maple seeds to take home.

Our seven garden lessons cover a variety of garden topics, but in each one, children sow seeds in pots that they take home.  We feel that growing a plant from seed and caring for that plant is a crucial experience for children, allowing them both to witness the wonder of nature and to experience the responsibility of nurturing a living plant.

Vegetable Garden lesson

Vegetable Garden lesson

When we first decided to develop these garden lessons, we wanted to create affordable, fun activities that children would like doing. The homemade materials (felt boards and figures, felt vegetables, felt flower diagrams, seed models made from clay) were not difficult to design and make and were constructed by Master Gardeners with no crafting experience.  These materials are intriguing to children who love handling them, thus providing a tactile experience which adds to their learning.  Including songs to sing and stories to act out involves the children on an active level which helps to hold their interest and makes the lessons very enjoyable.

Purchased durable supplies include plastic bins (about $15 each), mesh insect cages (about $10 each), ladybird beetle and praying mantis life cycle models (about $6 each), and a portable CD player (about $20).  Supplies that need to be regularly replenished include seeds, potting soil, zipper-lock plastic bags, styrofoam cups for the ‘Personality Pots,’  live ladybird beetles (about $6), and praying mantis egg sacs (about $10).   Live garden creatures other than ladybird beetles are collected by Master Gardeners from their own gardens and compost piles.  Pots for children to sow seeds in are made from old newspapers by the Master Gardeners.  Handouts and pictures to color are easily found on the Internet and printed out.

Having a self-contained lesson enables a Master Gardener to present a lesson with a minimum of preparation.  These lessons can also be modified by the person doing the presentation.  Some presenters like to add more information and some omit certain activities that they are not comfortable with (such as singing a song).  Although the lessons were originally designed for children in grades K-6, they can be, and have been, modified for younger and older children as well.  The presentations are usually 45-60 minutes in length but can be shortened or lengthened depending on the age and number of the children participating.

Children look forward to our presentations and enjoy the time they spend with us.  We regularly receive charming thank-you notes from the children which include comments such as these:  “I like how you taught us. I liked when we did the play. The bugs were cool.”  “I love the fun active games. I loved learning about pollen and good and bad bugs.”  “I like the song you taught us too!”  “You showed us how plants grow.”

We have a lot of fun with the children in these presentations, and especially enjoy seeing their delight at discovering the joys of gardening.


Children and Ladybugs For further information, please contact Tim Kohlhauff at

2017 Youth 1st Place (tie) – Catherine Desourdy School Garden Mentor Program, University of Rhode Island

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Catherine Desourdy School Garden Mentors (SGMs) are specially trained University of Rhode Island (URI) Extension Master Gardeners who volunteer in schools on behalf of URI Cooperative Extension’s School Garden Initiative. This project, which tied for second place in the 2017 Extension Master Gardener Search for Excellence Youth Category, cultivates a love of nature, a respect for all living things, and a foundation in natural sciences for school-aged youth. Over sixty schools in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut have partnered with URI Master Gardeners to help children of all ages learn about the world around them and how to become its stewards.

The award will be given on July 11 at the General Session of the International Master Gardener Conference in Portland, Oregon.  The Search for Excellence is the recognition program for outstanding Extension Master Gardener projects throughout the United States, Canada and South Korea.

The garden at Waddington Elementary in East Providence, Rhode Island, has helped the children feel closer to nature and empowered to help protect it.  Art teacher/ URI Master Gardener Melissa Guillet has them study live insects and draw and make models from specimens. They look for evidence of tracks, scat, and homes, plant veggies, share salad, soups, and teas with their produce, and learn to work as a team.  They learn how seeds travel, seeking seeds out in the fall, and design their own seed packs.  They make art out of leaves and identify trees.  It’s non-stop exploration at this school, even measuring soil moisture and rainfall to track el Nino for GLOBE and NASA and designing their own anemometers!  They do this all through collaborations with URI Master Gardeners Desourdy School Gardens program, Barrington Land Trust, ASRI, parents, other volunteers, and the environmental curriculum developed by Melissa Guillet through 15 Minute Field Trips™.

Hamilton Elementary School in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, focused more exclusively on sustainable “green” gardening practices. Everyone learned about the importance of companion planting and its Abenaki Native American origins at the school’s Three Sisters Garden. Later, they planted a square-foot garden bed and harvested food for nearby food pantries.

Two hundred Cluny Elementary School children, in Newport, Rhode Island, gardened in the winter by planting seeds under hoop coverings and in ziplock bags, which were placed in milk containers in the snow. They also planted a raspberry patch and apple trees. At their plant sale students made $80 selling their own lettuce and that money was used in other school garden projects.  They hope to create a rain garden next year and hook up rain barrels to water their beds.

The School Garden Mentor project is named for the late URI Master Gardener, Catherine Desourdy, whose family made a bequest in her name after her death in 2008.  Its main purpose has been to connect youth to gardening. More than 13,000 children have learned to value growing locally, to understand the importance of vegetables in a healthy diet, the role of pollinators and beneficial insects, the need to recycle, and the stages of growth in plants, among other things. As Vanessa Venturini, URI Master Gardener State Program Leader says, “School gardens serve as living laboratories, giving students access to authentic learning environments to help them learn science, math, social studies and other concepts.”

Testimonies from those taking part prove her point. One teacher cites overhearing a boy instructing his grandfather on the importance of planting marigolds to “keep the bad bugs away” instead of spraying seedlings, which would “kill the bees and the good bugs” as well. Another recounts the responses of first graders to learning about vermicomposting, “We didn’t really like worms but now that we know how important they are to helping our earth and our garden grow, we love them.”

More than fifty URI Master Gardeners currently serve as mentors, with more interns training each year. A team of regional “School Garden Mentor Managers”organize and support the mentors.  School garden Mentors assist classroom teachers in a number of ways:

  • Bringing together school garden teams consisting of teachers, staff, parents and students to ensure long-term success and continuity;
  • Helping them make decisions in the garden such as choosing a site and selecting appropriate plants
  • Completing soil tests and making recommendations for amending beds prior to planting
  • Providing access to standards-based curricula for use in the garden classroom
  • Supplying school gardens with donations of seeds and seedling donations for pollinator and vegetable gardens
  • Making available the URI Gardening & Environmental Hotline, URI Plant Clinic and other URI Cooperative Extension resources to troubleshoot

The first School Garden Mentors volunteered in three suburban elementary schools in 2011.  Since then the project has expanded to include public and private schools, reaching K-12 students in urban and rural areas as well. As of 2016, a partnership has developed between URI Cooperative Extension and the Providence Public School District to develop and support school gardens on a district level.  This School Garden Initiative has generated best practices which are then shared through continuing education classes designed for School Garden Mentors working statewide.






2017 Youth 2nd Place (tie) – Science With Attitude (SWAt), Denton County, TX

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Who we are? Beginning in 2009, the Denton County Master Gardener Association (DCMGA) began partnering with Elm Fork Master Naturalists, 4-H and Denton County School Districts to offer a summer in-service teacher training program focused around the Junior Master Gardener curriculum. Each year after the inception, additional course material was added. In 2013 teachers, who completed the enhanced summer training program, requested an outreach program for their students to ensure year-around education about horticulture, the environmental impact of human behavior and general nature topics.

set up for the fish demostrationIn 2014 because of requests from our trained teachers, the team created a plan to expand our efforts by establishing an educational outreach program providing research-based gardening and environmental education directly to children using guided observation and demonstrations.  The Science With Attitude (SWAt) Educational Outreach program launched in 2015 offering 17 topic choices selected or suggested by the teachers during their SWAt training.

What we do? Any educator in Denton County may request a presentation or demonstration from SWAt by registering and selecting a topic from the menu maintained on the DCMGA website. Available topics include but are not limited to: vegetable gardening, honeybees, worm composting, wildlife observation and habitats, birds, wildflowers, saving water and understanding the environmental impact of human behavior. Depending on the selected topic, Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, 4-H youth or a combination of these volunteers conduct the presentation or demonstration. Each training or demonstration topic has associated materials and instructions stored in the DCMGA resource room.

Before the presentation: After receiving the educational outreach request from an educator, the scheduling coordinator identifies an event leader who confirms date, time and location with the requester. Additional volunteers are requested depending on the class size and the nature of the activity. Just prior to the training event, the leader picks up the training materials from the DCMGA resource room, confirms the completeness of the contents of the topic storage bin, and signs out the materials from the resource room.

The project event team reviews the lesson plan with particular emphasis on the interactive activities that include interaction with the children and reinforces the lessons to be learned.

During the educational activity: In addition to covering the training materials, event volunteers strive to ensure enthusiasm, fun and interaction opportunities for attendees. Some activities lend themselves to hands-on interactions for the students, while others may be a presentation. Questions are encouraged and students are gently quizzed about what they lelearing about native plants and butterfliesarned and how they might change their future behavior after learning the lessons.

After the presentation: The event leader thanks the teacher and students and offers support for any follow-on activities the teacher has planned. The materials are inventoried to determine if orders need to be placed to refresh the supplies and the entire kit is returned to the DCMGA resource room.

Where we have been?

  • Fifty-Nine Master Gardeners supported the SWAt program at some time during 2015-2016 with nine contributors providing continuity from the beginning. The SWAt team reported 3,689 volunteer hours in 2015-2016 of which approximately 50% were in support of educational outreach to youth projects.
  • Thirty-Five Master Naturalists volunteers provided over 1,000 hours of service in support of SWAt Educational Outreach.
  • In 2016 volunteers engaged 2,601 youth at 48 elementary and pre-schools.
  • In 2015 volunteers engaged 3,795 youth responding to 44 requests from 8 school districts.

Where we are going? Each year the team receives excellent suggestions from teachers and team members about how we can make SWAt Outreach more responsive to the needs of our community. As we plan for the next semester, we list potential additions and changes, consider the ability of the team to implement each and then rank and schedule. In the near termstram trailer demostration, we are considering:

  • Increasing the data collected during presentations or demonstrations and reported on the SWAt evaluation form
  • Adding evening classes and activities
  • Tailoring some of the demonstrations to support graduated levels of complexity
  • Tying our educational activities into the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skill standards program
  • Automating some of the registration, contact hours and attendance tracking and tying registrations to the SWAt calendar and material’s inventory

2017 Youth 2nd Place (tie) – Morris Elementary School Greenhouse, Madison County, AL

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Morris Elementary School Project

The Morris Elementary School Project (MES), in its fourth year, is the result of a local Principal wanting her students to learn about gardening and the environment, and to be engaged in nature utilizing the school’s unused greenhouse and center courtyard. Our primary goal is to teach them the principles of horticulture to demonstrate healthier food choices and to make them aware of the things around them and that they just don’t miraculously appear on the table. The program teaches them confidence, planning, nurturing, marketing and charity. We introduce them to healthy food options each week during a 45-minute class period utilizing the Junior Master Gardener program and incorporating science projects. We invite speakers from the Huntsville Botanical Garden (HBG), MGNA, NASA and other community experts to present a variety of topics: growing food in space, perennials, migrating birds, and how animals survive the winter.


Children learn by planting and maintaining gardens. Daylilies, bulbs, perennials and annuals have been planted by the students under the tutelage of MGNA members. The students have installed two lasagna gardens, square foot gardens, various bird houses and feeders around the school. Weekly a student researches a new fruit or vegetable and gives a presentation to the other students, thus practicing research and public speaking. Samples are passed around and seeds are planted if possible. The students learn about recycling and sustainability by making ‘news’paper pots and old race tire flower gardens, painted in vibrant colors. Leaves were recycled for mulch and compost. Donated hub caps were painted and ‘planted’ in a flower bed to help hide an ugly fence. Plastic water bottles were reused to make worm bins for the classrooms and watering bottles for the gardens. Donated landscape rocks were painted with encouraging and positive words (e.g. hope, smile, be happy) to decorate a barren pond area during the winter.

Conservation methods include three rain barrels near the gardens used for watering.  Two different composting systems aredemonstrated and used; students often bring material from home to add. After hearing a local expert speak about pollinators, the class planted wildflowers and registered for the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Bird feeders are made annually from pinecones and toilet paper rolls and hung outside the classrooms and library for the enjoyment of the school children. One student reported that he used his newfound knowledge to make birdfeeders over the Christmas holidays for his home.

Students journal after each garden class; Master Gardener volunteers collect the journals to read them, make notes and answer questions. Each week a student uses my camera to take photos, learning about color, composition and angles. These photos are shared with the local association newsletter, Facebook and the school – to the utter delight of the children.

Science and math projects are incorporated using transpiration and seed growing experiments. When we have a special day with cookies or pizza, the children have to trace the ingredients back to plants before enjoying the treat. Lessons are built upon weekly.  Our end of the year scavenger hunt culminates the year’s lessons and results in a new garden being completed. Students answer questions such as “I am made up of paper and used to mail items to people. I can be placed on the ground to help deter weeds from growing. What am I?” After answering cardboard they went on to the next question, “I can be found on cars and trucks. There are usually 4 of me and I am round and black, but today I’m a different color. What am I?” (A tire) They find the tire, place it on the cardboard, and started to build their recycled tire garden.

Giving and community involvement are taught and encouraged, the majority of the vegetables grown are donated to a local Food Bank. Last year, after their first successful plant sale, the students wanted to share what they had earned and elected to give a portion earned to a local Elementary school to help fund a newly established song bird garden. Mother’s Day plants are raised and sold to students for $1 each (or 3 quarters and a Chucky Cheese coin!).

Non-participating students, teachers, school staff and visitors often stop to see what the week’s events include and to ask how they can get involved. The program has a huge impact on the children. At the end of the school year, a winning essay read at graduation talked in detail about how Master Gardeners “teach us how to grow different kinds of plants, encourage us to research and taste different plants, and they plan special activities for us. They helped us grow plants to sell, so we could go to camp next year.


We also had a scavenger hunt and planted lilies in painted tires. We have painted rocks, hubcap flowers, bird feeders and small gardens all over the school. This helps Morris look really nice.” Each week the students were excited to try the new fruit or vegetable. Towards the end of the school year, when offered cookies instead of a vegetable, the students all choose the vegetable!


2017 Youth 3rd Place (tie) – Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and School Garden (YBLG), Lincoln County, OR

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017


This garden is a collaboration between Newport’s Elementary Schools and Lincoln County Master Gardeners, Lincoln County Master Gardener Association, Oregon State Parks & Recreation, Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses, Lincoln County School District and the local Food Share and local food pantries. The garden is a historical and cultural gem in the community. MG’s provide instruction to students in seed propagation at the school greenhouse and planting at the YBLG during the spring, along with a full harvest field trip in early fall. A nutrition lesson and tasting of vegetables grown at the garden is a welcome treat for the students, hopefully sparking a lifetime interest in gardening and sustainability. In 2015, we celebrated our 20th anniversary. This is not a traditional demonstration garden as the entire garden is a living project from seed planting at the Sam Case Elementary School greenhouse to final harvest and putting the beds to winter rest at the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. This year, a second student class from Yaquina View Elementary School was introduced to the YBLG garden and they grew our edible and pollinator flowers and herbs



YBLG is an educational heritage garden that is meant to recreate what was likely a small scale garden at this and many other lighthouses during the 1870’s, when the garden would have provided a partial source of food self-sufficiency to the light keepers and their families. Students are taught food propagation and community service. Raised beds and a drip irrigation system have brought it into the 21st century. All the harvests from the garden are donated to the Lincoln County Food Share. Organic gardening practices are employed-Pesticide Free Zone and Pollinator Garden designated.

2017 Youth 3rd Place (tie) – Hands on Horticulture, Brunswick County, NC

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Description: For the last three years, South Brunswick Middle School 6th graders have arrived at the Brunswick County Botanical Garden for a full day of “Hands On Horticulture”. The 300-350 students arriving each year, rotated through learning stations in the Botanical Garden to take part in engaging and fun activities which align with the North Carolina Science Common Core Standards. The learning stations were spread around the garden in areas that corresponded to the lesson. For example, ‘Water Quality’ was taught at the edge of a Rain Garden and ‘Everyday Foods’ was taught among the raised vegetable beds. Other specialty areas included Roses, Southern Living Live Oak, River Birch Natives, Edible Landscape and the Pollinator gardens.


  1. Anticipation: Our Horticulture Agent and Master Gardeners visited the middle school  to meet with all the 6th graders and generate excitement about the upcoming field trip. Props included an insect collection, poisonous plants and a vermiculture bin! A pre-test was given on science curriculum topics covered throughout the year and student teams designed and drew  their own imaginary Botanical Gardens in anticipation of what they hoped to see.
  2. Action: Small teams of students visited each station as they were  guided through the garden by Master Gardener volunteers
    1. Seed Bombs for Guerilla Gardeners Purpose: Explore new techniques for spreading seeds on the home front; help re-establish native plants for pollinators
    2. Every Day Foods Purpose: Review basic plant anatomy and function while eating examples of each plant part; emphasize fruits and vegetables as healthy food choices.
    3. Plant scavenger Hunt Purpose: Identify plants based on certain physical characteristics and describe how these traits are helpful adaptations.
    4. Our Local Landscape and Water Quality Purpose: Understand how human activity affects water quality by collecting water runoff over turf and bare soil; what is their personal responsibility for protecting our water?
    5. Eco Tower Purpose: Students connect ecosystem processes using wooden building blocks and describe how various actions may disrupt or benefit our environment.
    6. Beekeeper Purpose: Recognize the importance of insect pollinators; learn about a career as a beekeeper and making honey
    7. Compost and Vermiculture Purpose: Observe how composting, recycling and worms can help humans adapt their behavior to promote a more self-sustaining environment.

Significant Learning and Impacts:
Pre-and post- test evaluations indicated a 70% increase in student knowledge after the test. The students were prepared for end-of grade testing. Teachers earned CEU credits after the first year was judged to present relevant information to enrich their curriculum. For 100% of the students, this was their first visit to a Botanical Garden and many promised to return and bring their families.  The budget for this exciting day of learning was minimal:

  • Fresh fruits & vegetables – $50
  • Wildflower seeds & clay – $100
  • Eco Tower blocks handmade and painted on used lumber
  • School  paid for bus transportation

Results for BCMGVA: 

Hands On Horticulture is a middle school educational program that fulfills the mission of NC State Extension and the Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, to provide science based information to the public. Since 2014, over 1,000 6th grade students have participated in the Hands On Horticulture program with nearly 80% showing an increase in applied knowledge. At least three students have since contacted Extension to gather more information on vermicomposting and three are currently enrolled in a 4-H Club in Brunswick County. Teachers have been so impressed with the program that they have requested it for other grade levels. Word of the possibilities of taking part in such an exciting educational program has spread throughout the county and we recently hosted our first home school group. One teacher stated that, “Your program was better than we could have asked for – I even learned some things that I plan on using in my own classroom.

The Hands On Horticulture also fulfills the Vision of the Botanical Garden Committee that the Botanical Garden will reflect beauty, excellence and inspiration for all visitors to learn about plants and the varied environments in our southeastern  NC  coastal plane. Each day approximately 15 Master Gardener Volunteers and Extension staff enthusiastically participated in seeing the world of nature through the eyes of children.

2015 Search for Excellence Winners are Announced!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Congratulations to the Twenty-one 2015 Search for Excellence Awards winners!IMGC Logo

Search for Excellence (SFE) is the recognition of outstanding projects by Master Gardener volunteers throughout the United States and Canada. These twenty-one awards were presented at the International Master Gardener Conference 2015 (IMGC 2015), Horticultural Horizons in the Heartland.Horticultural Horizons in the Heartland Logo

SFE Awards are presented every two years at the IMGC conference where Master Gardener volunteers, Extension staff and faculty gather to learn from each other, share projects and to network with their peers from around the world. Twenty one Master Gardener programs were recognized for their outstanding achievement from a field of seventy two applications, submissions from twenty six USA states and two Canadian provinces.

First, second and third place awards are presented in seven categories:

• Community Service
• Demonstration Gardens
• Innovative Projects
• Special Needs Audiences
• Research
• Workshop or Presentation
• Youth Programs

All SFE applications must show that significant learning took place. The SFE projects need to be ongoing projects for at least two years; one of the winners this year has been going on for twenty six years. The IMGC Committee judges the applications. Winning projects were chosen on the basis of their originality and creativity; practicality of the program; simplicity of replication by other Master Gardeners and their significant impact on their communities.

First place winners received a plaque and a small stipend to continue their educational projects. The twenty one awarded projects displayed posters of their projects at the IMGC 2015 conference. Congratulations to all the SFE awardees that are involved in these excellent projects.

Beginning next week and continuing over the next several months, this blog will feature stories and pictures from each 2015 Search for Excellence award winners. Watch for the upcoming postings and read about these outstanding projects.

The 2017 SFE awards nominations soon, more information will be found on the 2017 IMGC Webiste.


2013 Search for Excellence Award Winners

Friday, June 27th, 2014
IMG Search for Excellence

International Master Gardener Search for Excellence Awards

On September 7, 2013 twenty one Search for Excellence Awards were presented at the International Master Gardener Conference 2013 (IMGC 2013), Cruise to Alaska Flowers, Fjords & Friends. Search for Excellence (SFE) is the recognition of outstanding projects by Master Gardener volunteers throughout the United States and Canada. 2013 logo for IMGC

SFE Awards are presented every two years at the IMGC conference where Master Gardener volunteers, Extension staff and faculty gather to learn from each other, share projects and to network with their peers from around the world. Twenty one Master Gardener programs were recognized for their outstanding achievement from a field of seventy two applications, submissions from twenty six USA states and two Canadian provinces.

First, second and third place awards were presented in seven categories:

• Community Service
• Demonstration Gardens
• Innovative Projects
• Special Needs Audiences
• Research
• Workshop or Presentation
• Youth Programs

All SFE applications must show that significant learning took place. The SFE projects need to be ongoing projects for at least two years; one of the winners this year has been going on for twenty six years. The IMGC Committee judges the applications. Winning projects were chosen on the basis of their originality and creativity; practicality of the program; simplicity of replication by other Master Gardeners and their significant impact on their communities.

First place winners received a plaque and a small stipend to continue their educational projects. The twenty one awarded projects displayed posters of their projects at the IMGC 2013 conference. Congratulations to all the SFE awardees that are involved in these excellent projects.

Beginning in October and continuing over the next several months, this blog will feature stories and pictures from each 2013 Search for Excellence award winners. Watch for the upcoming postings  and read about these outstanding projects.

The 2015 SFE awards nominations will begin in September – to apply follow the links.

Written by: Patty Driscoll, 2013 SFE Chair

Search for Excellence Award Blog Posts (Listing by Project Category)

Monday, February 6th, 2012
IMG Search for Excellence

International Master Gardener Search for Excellence Awards

In early November, Monica David, the 2011 IMGC vice president, announced we would be sharing 18 blog posts about each of the Extension Master Gardener volunteer projects that received a 2011 International Search For Excellence Award. These projects were awarded among six project categories during the 2011 International Master Gardener Conference.

Blog Posts Created New National Recognition and Discussion Opportunities

This year, blogging about these award winning projects helped bring new recognition and understanding of the value of Extension Master Gardener volunteers through pageviews on this blog, shares through our Facebook page, and retweets on Twitter.

Many of these projects received kudos in the blog’s comments section and created opportunities for Extension Master Gardeners from different states to discuss and learn about how local programs are participating in similar or different ways across the United States. To make these blog posts easier to access and find by category, we’ve grouped the 2011 International Master Gardener Search For Excellence award winning blog posts by project category and listed them for you below.

As you work toward new volunteer projects this year, you may want to take another glimpse at these posts, share these with a friend, or perhaps add your insights to the comments sections for a particular project that applies or resonates most with you….or (hint, hint) perhaps these posts will encourage your local program to submit an application for the 2013 International Master Gardener Search for Excellence Awards!

Blog Posts by Project Award Category

Workshop attendees learn how to properly construct their own rain barrels in Macon, County Iowa

The next International Master Gardener Conference and Search for Excellence Awards will take place in 2013.  For more information on the next International Master Gardener conference, see the IMGC 2013 Website or Facebook page.

Karen Jeannette
eXtension Consumer Horticulture Content Coordinator

2011 Search for Excellence Youth Category Award Winner- 3rd Place

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Youth and Family Services Garden Project- Canadian County, Oklahoma

The Canadian County Master Gardeners served as the daily programmers, dedicating themselves for two months at the Youth & Family Services facility where they worked side by side with disadvantaged youth to construct a nature trail and low ropes course incorporating horticulture fieldtrips and the Junior Master Gardener Curriculum.

A youth learns about the importance of irrigation in growing plants.

Each week had a garden theme that all the classroom, outdoor activities, and fieldtrips focused around. Furthermore, activities were divided into large group projects, small group projects, and individual projects. This created an environment that required the students to work together and communicate with one another, while allowing them to have their own “personal stamp” on the garden.


The youth learned a great deal about horticulture, art, technology, and life skills. By utilizing the Junior Master Gardener curriculum they learned the basics of plant science. Armed with this knowledge, the youth performed gardening skills such as planting, irrigation, mulching, plant identification, staking, and weed prevention while they were out in the garden. Additionally, they learned about related environmental issues such as water erosion, pollution and wildlife attracted to a garden. The youth gained valuable lessons in life skills such as communication, teamwork, and budgeting.

The Canadian County Master Gardeners (CCMG) are affiliated with Oklahoma State University Extension.  CCMG is a young organization that established just 4 years ago, but now has an active membership of 45 Master Gardeners.

Visit the Canadian County Extension Master Gardener website-

Written by Casey Sharber, Extension Educator, Horticulturist, Canadian County, OK