Each school week finds BVAS Garden Club members Jo Niedeck and Joan Bockman knee-deep in compost. They’re leading a treasure hunt with the children at Laurel, Mission, and South Oceanside Elementary Schools. The prizes? Tasty produce and an appreciation of the birds, insects, and other invertebrates that the garden supports. There’s no place like a garden to motivate the natural curiosity of children and overcome the irrational notions that dirt is yucky or worms are gross. It’s in a garden that the food chain comes to life.
How do Jo and Joan perform this miracle? It begins and ends with language. Here is a sampling of their self-described bon mots to use with younger naturalists.
- Whenever we come to the garden, the first thing we do is tiptoe around and look for bugs.
- Get your hands dirty.
- We invite bugs into our open hands. We never use our pincher finger because you are a giant. Imagine King Kong picking you up with two fingers – ouch!
- Bees are attracted to flowers. Because you are not a flower, bees are not looking for you. The only reason a bee will sting is if you have picked a fight by flailing your arms about and hit it first.
- If you are really nice and a snail trusts you, it will come out and give you a kiss. Snail poop is the best thing that can happen to you. All of our food depends on snails and other things turning dead stuff and ground-up rocks into soil.
- Think about everything that has died over the last 10,000 years right where we are standing. What if it was all still here? It would be piled up over our heads. Mammoths, Native Americans, raccoons, some old farmer from the 1940s, all the insects. Isn’t it great that something made all that material decay?
People think that scientists come from Cal Tech. Jo and Joan know they evolve from their curiosity about nature.