WORTHINGTON — In-person summer camps are kiboshed this year due to coronavirus, but that doesn't mean 4-H participants have to completely disengage.
Nobles County 4-H has found a way to offer programming through a virtual pizza garden camp that teaches kids about agriculture concepts, healthy living and self-reliance. Sixteen local 4-H kids signed up for the virtual camp and are eight weeks into the 10-week program.
"It's been going over really well," said Nobles County Extension educator Mackenzie Wolf.
In conjunction with Lincoln County 4-H through an app called Flipgrid, the camp takes 4-H'ers through the steps of producing a pizza, from growing the ingredients to assembling the toppings. Each student received a bell pepper plant, a tomato plant, onion bulbs, basil seeds and wheat seeds to plant in their own garden. Through weekly lessons, they have been tending to their produce and learning the processes of making the various ingredients for pizza.
Lessons include video tutorials from educators' own gardens showing students each step, from how deep to plant each veggie, to the amount of water each needs, all the way to harvest. Initial lessons began with instruction about healthy soil and garden maintenance, then started went through each layer of a pizza from the crust (wheat) to the toppings. Students learned a little history about how each plant has been farmed over time.
Although they aren't "growing" their own cheese or meat for their pizzas, the students have still learned about how those elements are made, as well. Nobles County dairy farmers helped out with the cheese lesson, explaining how cheese gets from the cow to the plate. A 4-H'er who works at W-2's Quality Meats set up a demonstration of the production of pepperoni and sausage, along with a price comparison of those items between a grocery store and a meat locker.
Throughout the camp, educators have also emphasized the importance of healthy eating.
"Our favorite part of this was that we got to see kids' faces throughout the summer," Wolf said.
Educators also got to observe the students in their home environments, where younger siblings and pets often participated in tending the garden.
To end the camp, students will next go on a garden scavenger hunt, followed by a harvest celebration to wrap up the program.