New Waves August 2007

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

Junior Master Gardener develops soil, water curriculum

The newest resource of the National Junior Master Gardener (JMG) Program—Operation W.A.T.E.R.: Dr. Thistle Goes Underground—was recently released and the program’s staff is seeking groups to sponsor training workshops to educate teachers and youth leaders about using this new curriculum.

Developed by Texas Cooperative Extension, this horticulture and environmental science curriculum for students from sixth to eighth grade consists of group and individual activities and can be used for a school class, JMG club, 4-H program, kids gardening group or individual study.

Using Operation W.A.T.E.R.: Dr. Thistle Goes Underground, students can investigate a new mystery while they learn important concepts about soil and water, said Lisa Whittlesey, Extension program specialist and National JMG coordinator.

Topics in Operation W.A.T.E.R. include soil texture, aquifers, watersheds, wetlands, soil nutrients, the water cycle, soil improvement, soil structure and water and soil conservation. Each teaching concept includes three hands-on lessons and activities that allow the students to learn teamwork as well as soil and water concepts. An integrated Web site for students is a part of the curriculum.

The villainous character “Dr. Thistle” was originally introduced in the first curriculum developed for this age group, Operation Thistle: Seeds of Despair, Plant Growth and Development. Students use the knowledge and concepts gained in their studies to defeat Dr. Thistle.

Whittlesey said the program is more than just another school curriculum and is being well-received by teachers and students across the country.

“For students, they will learn about important concepts of soils and water, as they work together on a mission to foil the newest plans of the evil Dr. Thistle,” she said. “It’s a novel and engaging way to connect with these students.”

For teachers, “it should be very popular in that it addresses important issues for Texas, is correlated to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and is a great fit for both school and after school programs,” she said.

For more information about these curricula, training opportunities or the JMG program visit the JMG Web site or call 979-845-8565.

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