Recently, a request came across the GAMG listserv for stories about school gardens. The response was great — I enjoyed reading about elementary, middle, and high school projects with different goals and outcomes! I applaud you for investing in today’s youth, and thank you for sharing gardening and horticulture with them. Research confirms what we know in our gardener’s heart of hearts: these experiences today build adults who care about the environment and plants, and plants and landscaping improve our communities.
But MGEVs do WAY more than school garden projects! I have heard stories of demonstration gardens, plant festivals, work shops, and flower shows. There are plant clinics conducted every week by MGEVs, getting solid recommendations and directions out to our communities about lawn care practices, vegetable gardening, pest management, and more. MGEVs staff phone lines and greet the public at Extension offices every day. The short of it is, MGEVs are busy people!
What makes a good MGEV project?
- Rooted in local need. I always look for the local need — the “why” of what is being done. MGEVs are great at helping to identify these local needs and make great additions to Extension program development teams because they are in tune with local communities. The idea usually starts with someone noticing something undesirable, lacking, or in need of improvement. Sometimes the idea originates from an Extension Agent, other times volunteers bring the local needs and ideas to the planning table. Trees are not being pruned correctly, plant choices could be improved, planters are empty, lawns are fertilized at the wrong time of year, young people really need…
- Extension leadership is evident. There is a process, whether informal or formal, where this local need is discussed from an Extension perspective. How can Extension address this local need through education? The Extension Agent is involved in these discussions, and the solutions are part of the Agent’s Plan of Work. The local Extension office is in full awareness of the project, its work days, the results. Project leaders have been identified, and a team has been designated to address the local need.
- Everyone is involved. Good MGEV projects involve lots of people. Besides the project or team leader, supporting volunteers are identified, know what is expected of them, and show up eager to accomplish the task at hand. There are usually community partners who help share the load of the project. These community partners may be individuals or other organizations who share resources, such as a location, materials, help with advertisement and marketing, or even other volunteers. The intended audience is also heavily involved in the project, such as by making decisions or learning new plants or skills.
- Results. It is clear what is happening because Extension and MGEVs have been hard at work! Children are proud of their veggies that they grew! Clients are pleased with the choices they made about their landscapes. Pests are brought under control with safe practices.
- Closure. Good MGEV projects have an end. This reflects the original planning that went into the project — everyone knows the specific destination or solution for that local need. It is obvious when that point has been reached.
- Reflection. There is a time to review the project, to determine if that local need has been met, if the work is finished. Is there more to do? Should Extension and MGEVs be the ones to continue the work? Is there a better way to accomplish the same result? Do we need more support? more volunteers? more resources? What did this project mean to us? What did this project mean to our communities? What can we learn from this experience? Where do we go from here?
- Sharing. When the project has been done well, you can’t help but want to brag a little! Sharing what has been accomplished is an important last-step with a project. Share the results with community partners, stakeholders, and even participants. Don’t forget to share the results with each other! And don’t forget to share the results with me!
Keep up the great work you are doing on behalf of Extension in communities all across Georgia!