Kids' Field Trip

By Sandy Stubbings; a continuing report of the Education Committee.

What can the AOS do to interest the youth of today in orchids? That is the question that has been consistently addressed by the Education Committee of the AOS. With this series of articles, we hope to involve AOS affiliates in an exchange of ideas that can be used at shows, meetings and other society activities to engage children in the world of orchids.

This time, we’d like to tell you about a field trip a group of preschoolers had to Clown Alley Orchids. I will admit, we faced the prospect with doubts, but were rewarded with a delightful experience that motivated a number of 4 year olds to bring their parents and grandparents to the next Orchid Show in our area, about 6 weeks after the field trip! At the show we observed several of the children leading adults around the exhibits, pointing out specific orchids they loved with great excitement and telling adults what had interested them at the greenhouse.

If a whole pre-school class is daunting for you, think of how you can apply what we learned to your own children, grandchildren and their friends. Inviting them into your growing spaces and letting them help with chores, or just enjoy the plants is highly motivating to young children. My granddaughters love to come weed in the greenhouses. Of course, I have shown them how and impressed on them the need for getting out the entire weed. Now they ask if they can come weed when they visit! (It doesn’t hurt to send them home with a small blooming plant, or, at least, some bright, plastic bug clips!)

The field trip began when 2 school busses pulled up and discharged about thirty four year olds with their teachers and parent volunteers. We brought them into the sales building where they sat and listened to John Stubbings do a show and tell about the orchids. He grouped the orchids into families, talking about how they were like sisters and brothers, or cousins. The children bought into this right away.

Then we gave the children (with their supervisors) a tour of the greenhouses, reinforcing the lecture contents and answering the children’s questions. The comprehension and intensity of the questioning was impressive.

After this introduction, the children were set up at tables outside and given a starter plant to pot up. Each group of four children had a pan of potting mix, water and pots to use. John demonstrated the repotting procedure. Adult supervision helped while each child potted up a plant. The child’s name was written on the pot to insure that the plant could be matched with the proper owner when the bus arrived back at school.

A bathroom break was completed, hands were washed thoroughly and the children got back on the bus with their teachers and volunteers.

We waved goodbye, very sad to see them leave. They had been amazingly well behaved, attentive and careful both with the plants in the greenhouses and their own little plants.

A few suggestions for working with children:

  • Keep all your instructions and lectures very short. Attention spans are minimal.
  • Use as many visuals, objects, and demonstrations as possible.
  • Divide instructions into single discrete, steps delivered as needed in the process. For example: demonstrate how to pull the plant out of the pot; let the kids do theirs. Then demonstrate how to clean the old mix off the roots; let the children do theirs. (etc.) The older the child, the more you can group instructions together.
  • Give lots of encouragement and praise.

After our experience, we highly recommend that you include young children in your orchid activities whenever and however you can do it. Those of us who are grandparents already know the delights of including even the youngest children in our hobby. Young children can be so tender and loving with plants! You might even encourage a lifelong hobby or vocation. (My granddaughter is in the gardening club at school now and loves to experiment with plants.)