Tag Archives: Teens

Tancil Court, Alexandria, “I Can Shine Garden”

“I Can Shine Garden” teaches children to grow vegetables

By Alice Reid

I Can Shine

Thanks to a hard-working group of children and more than a dozen volunteers, we’ve had a productive and fun spring at the “I Can Shine Garden” at Tancil Court in Alexandria.

While the weather was still cool, the children planted seeds for collards, spinach, bok choy, and lettuce as well as peas, radishes, and carrots. For their labors, they have harvested more than 10 pounds of collards, several bags of peas, lots of carrots and so much Swiss chard and bok choi that there’s been enough to supply several dishes for the children’s after school snack. Bok choi was the big surprise. The kids went from “Hunh? What’s that?” to “Yum, we want more.”

Coming along we have four tomato plants, a handful of pepper plants, some zucchini plants, pole beans ready to climb on our teepee, and some cucumbers to compete with them. Over in our little “annex”, i.e. two abandoned tree wells in the court yard of this Old Town Alexandria public housing project, we have a watermelon patch going, and a 10 by 10 foot area that the kids planted with sweet potato slips they rooted themselves. Keep your fingers crossed that the potatoes catch on. Oh, and we have two baskets of regular potatoes coming along as well.

We are also participating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a Harlequin Bug experiment (the Organic Vegetable Garden is also participating in this experiment). The USDA is trying to find the best kind of bait to lure these voracious bugs away from collards and their other cabbage-family favorites and into traps. We have four USDA-supplied collard plants at the corners of Tancil Court. Each one has a pheromone-laced bait  hanging above it to lure the bugs. Each week the children tour the baits, count and collect any harlequin bugs that may be resting on the plant leaves. They bag and freeze any they find, and those are collected by the USDA. Tancil Court is one of several area gardens participating in the experiment.

Summer is when we focus on harvesting our crops and maintaining our garden. We’re also hoping to do a couple of projects such as making solar ovens and baking a pizza using some of our own produce.

We sometimes use healthy snacks as a teaching tool, such as serving “parts of the plant salad,” – carrot roots, celery stems, spinach leaves, broccoli flowers, pea seeds, and tomato fruits – all blended with a little ranch dressing.

This project started three years ago under the auspices of a city effort to combat childhood obesity through healthy activity, i.e. gardening, and healthy eating habits. The garden has certainly helped these children on both fronts.

Reposted from the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia blog.

2013 Virginia 4-H State Congress

This month I had the pleasure of attending Virginia 4-H State Congress! This is an event put on by the state 4-H office down at Virginia Tech. Congress was held June 17-20 on the Virginia Tech Campus in Blacksburg, VA. Participants are 4-H members aged 14-19. They get to stay in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and take workshops in actual college classrooms! This year’s theme was ” The Path to Success, Luck Has Nothing to Do with It.”

Congress is a phenomenal opportunity for teens to get to experience a taste of “college life” while participating in 4-H structured programming and meeting other teens from all across the state! This year congress had several different workshop and learning opportunities.

The first evening of Congress, there was an opening ceremony where the participants were welcomed. During this opening ceremony, Miss Virginia 2012, Rosemary Willis, delivered an amazing keynote address about her participation in pageants, healthy living, and overcoming difficulties.


The next few days consisted of various workshops for the teens to attend. Tuesday morning consisted of “competition workshops” which helped better prepare 4-H members for state-wide 4-H competitions, such as food challenge, forestry judging, shooting sports, and even some livestock competitions such as horse bowl. During this time, some state level competitions were being held, including share the fun  which is the 4-H talent show, public speaking and presentations, photography, and fashion review. I chaperoned the cattle handling competition workshop. In the cattle handling competition, the youth participants must know how to administer preventative medicine to cattle, read a medication label to administer the proper dosage, and move the cattle from one location to another. This was a very interesting and informative workshop led by Dr. Whittier of Virginia Tech.


Tuesday afternoon was the Great Summer Series workshops which introduced the teens to a wide variety of topics in which they could explore. These workshops ranged in topics including basic first aid, all about alpacas, DNA extraction, stop-motion animation, large animal veterinary medicine, leadership, and dairy science! These workshops gave teens a taste of what it is like to study in these fields and introduced them to some activities they may encounter along the way.


Tuesday night was capped off with a carnival held in War Memorial Gym! A fun time was had all around. There were tons of different games to play; giant Jenga, Character Counts! Twister, mini golf, and the just dance video game was up and running for everyone to try! The Hokie Bird even made a special appearance at the carnival.


Wednesday morning was the college fair and career workshops. There were different workshops put on by the colleges within Virginia Tech, such as the College of Veterinary Medicine, Pamplin College of Business, College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences, and the College of Engineering. Each college presented different opportunities available to the students. I was lucky enough to be able to chaperone the teens over to the vet school. While we were there, we got a tour of the facilities, a presentation from a current student on what it took for him to get in, and even met some of the dogs they had available for adoption.


Wednesday afternoon included the banquet in which awards were presented to Extension Agents for programming grants, and the teens chosen to represent Virginia at National 4-H Congress were announced. After the banquet everyone was treated to the share the fun show, where the state winners showed off their talents. Everyone was fantastic and showed off some amazing skills! The acts included dancers, singers, piano players, and even a magician!


Sadly things came to a close on Thursday, but not after an awesome night of dancing and recreation time. The dance went for several hours, during which time the new state 4-H officers were announced. For anyone not in the dancing mood, there was bowling, billiards, and other games available to play.


Congress is an amazing event, and anyone who goes will grow tremendously in so many different ways. The 2014 Virginia 4-H State Congress will take place June 16-19, 2014 in Blacksburg, VA on the campus of Virginia Tech. If you or your teen are interested, do not hesitate to contact myself or Reggie about attending! We would LOVE to take some delegates from Alexandria and Arlington to this spectacular event.


Also, if you want to see some more pictures from this year’s congress, check them out on instagram! Follow username “Arlington4h” or go to: http://instagram.com/arlington4h

Both Arlington 4-H and Alexandria 4-H are also on twitter! Make sure you follow @Arlington4h and @Alexandria_4H