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Camp introduces gardening to young children

Children investigate a finding during a camp at the Albuquerque Garden Center.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque elementary students can attend a weeklong camp this summer that not only provides an outdoor experience but teaches them how a small thing like gardening can impact the environment.

The nonprofit Council of Albuquerque Garden Clubs is hosting the Guardians Day Camp for children in grades one through six. Louise Jensen, a camp committee member, said the camp fills up and parents are encouraged to sign up at the beginning of the summer.

The camp will take place July 29 to Aug. 2 and the cost is $125 for the first child and $100 for siblings. Jensen said the group does not make a profit on the camp but the registration fee covers the costs of the event. It will be held at the Albuquerque Garden Center, 10120 Lomas NE, and the last day to register is July 15. Attendees must pack a lunch each day but camp staff will provide a snack.

The theme of the camp, Jensen said, is growing native. Participants will learn about native plants and how to care for them. They will also learn the plants’ relationship to local bugs and wildlife.

Children involved in a summer day camp at the Albuquerque Garden Center help plant shrubs. This year’s camp will be held at the end of July.

“We want to introduce the children to gardening in our region and how important it is for the environment,” she said. “We are part of that as human beings.”

They will learn about what plants can thrive in New Mexico, especially in their own backyard. Campers then learn about the connection between native plants and pollinators such as bees and how that benefits all wildlife, which use plants as a food source.

The children will get to create their own a miniature garden, pot a plant they take home, play games, participate in other gardening activities and complete a small project they will present on the last day when families are invited for a picnic in the gardens. During the week, guest speakers will talk about trees, insects and other relevant topics.

The Council of Albuquerque Garden Clubs is a conglomerate of more than a dozen plant and garden clubs throughout the city, including the African Violet Club, the Xeric Garden Club, Master Gardeners, the Rose Society and The New Mexico Dahlia Society. The council manages the Garden Center and was started in 1950 with the aim of providing educational programs, guidance for gardeners and to encourage gardening.

The camp takes place on the lush grounds of the Albuquerque Garden Center, which boasts dozens of trees, grass, a pond, flowers, shrubs, walkways, seating areas and demonstration gardens for native plants, daylilies, roses, cactus, perennials and children. The center is located in Los Altos Park.

Jensen said sometimes in an urban environment children grow up not understanding their role in nature or how they can impact it. Knowing what to plant, Jensen said, is especially important in a region that suffers periodic drought conditions. She said the hope is the camp attendees will garden in the future, feel a connection to nature and possibly influence their parents to plant bushes, shrubs, trees and flowers that benefit the environment.

“We really need to raise our children to know how important this is,” Jensen said. “The further we get from the land, the less we understand that.”

For information or to register, visit albuquerquegardencenter.org or call 296-6020.

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