Eau Claire County Area Master Gardeners Learn Skills to Better Engage Others in Gardens

On March 4, 2016, I presented as part of the Eau Claire County UW-Extension program to train Master Gardener Volunteers in gardening strategies to better engage individuals participating in our gardening programs.  

volunteers creating a flower arrangement.

The hands-on day begins with the creation of a decorative centerpiece for each of the tables in the class. It is a great icebreaker and leads to much, much more.

18 individuals (17 Master Gardener Volunteers, 1 UWEX educator) participated in the day-long event.  During the program, participants successfully identified ways gardening can fit into a well-being model, listed ways plants provide sensory stimulation, identified participation barriers and how to provide accommodations, and how gardening programs can be built into vocation, wellness, and therapy programs.  

volunteers writing on paper

Participants discuss how plant-based activities can benefit populations and ways to better engage individuals with limited abilities or no experience with gardening

Initial feedback from participants was positive;  using a pre/post Likert scale survey of confidence on gardening with specific populations (0= no confidence, 1= low confidence, 2= moderate confidence, 3=high confidence) , pre-class average of 1.39 increased to 2.61 for the post class survey (1.22 increase).    When asked what they learned that they didn’t know before, participants reported learning to be cognizant of participants’ abilities and the need for proper directions and demonstration at the beginning of a project; when asked how they will incorporate this information into volunteerism the majority stated they will find ways to better engage the audiences they already work with and to try to work with new audiences in their communities.

participants role play gardening with limitations

Participants role-play limited abilities- vision, physical, or cognitive– while others attempt to lead a successful gardening program in order to first-hand experience the fun and frustration that can come with gardening programs we offer.