Success Stories

Junior Mastor Gardeners-Tarrant County
The Texas Community Future Forum identified Quality Youth Education and the Environment as the two greatest issues in Tarrant County. To address these issues, Texas AgriLIFE Extension, Tarrant County, introduced the Junior Master Gardener curriculum to area teachers, parents, after school providers and youth leaders through area trainings and exhibits at schools, Enviro Fair, In-Service, CAST, Extension office, and Garden Shows. The Junior Master Gardener program is an innovated method to teach language arts, science, self esteem, leadership and volunteerism using the garden as an outdoor learning area. Each JMG activity is related to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. The curriculum includes both outdoor and indoor activities. Research from Texas A&M University and other universities shows a garden program builds self-esteem, leadership, character, volunteerism, and respect for the environment. A research study in San Antonio found a garden program decreased absenteeism. Because of testimonials from teachers, students and principals, future research will show a garden program increases grades in language arts, science, and math. Mrs. Juanita Henry, Principal of Morningside Elementary, said, “I have seen a significant increase in the TAAS reading scores.” Conita Cramer, Principal of Joy James Elementary, said, “I have seen a student speak up in the garden to answer a question who had never answered a question in the classroom.” Pat May, JMG teacher/leader of the Bell Manor Elementary, said she sees “students take leadership in the garden.”

At Morningside Elementary 632 at risk youth are planting seeds, growing tomatoes, flowers, butterfly plants, and learning about reading, writing, math, and science in the garden. Did you know an 8×4 foot garden can grow 6 tomato plants? The students at Morningside Elementary School know this and how many squash, spinach, turnip, bean, lettuce, beet, onions, potatoes, and pepper plants will grow in an 8×4 foot garden, because they have twenty-six 8×4 foot box gardens at their school. There is a different vegetable growing in each box. The students plan what to grow, prepare the soil, plant the seeds or transplants, cultivate the plants, harvest the vegetables, and eat the vegetables. The students have learned if the garden is over crowded the plants do not grow as well, because they do not receive enough resources – light, water, nutrients and air. They understand, you have to do the math before you plant the seeds. Students learn in the garden once a week with horticulture teacher Jerry Mitchell, once a week in the science classroom with science teacher, Paula Williams, and in the classroom with their teachers. All the third, fourth and fifth grade students are registered JMG groups and have completed enough JMG activities and service projects to certify.
The students from Morningside like to write and draw pictures about their garden. The students submit their writings and drawings to the Morningside Horticulture Gazette for publication. One student has even had her poems she wrote for the Morningside Horticulture Gazette published in a book of children’s poems. The Morningside Elementary School garden includes the box vegetable gardens, wetland garden, waterfall, butterfly garden, herb garden, rose garden, perennial garden and the best teachers and students.

What do Davis Elementary School students and Arlington High School students have in common? They learn about the environment and gardening together. This unique trans-generational collaboration between Davis Elementary School and Arlington High School provide an opportunity for the high school horticulture students to learn about the environment and horticulture and then teach what they learned to the younger students at Davis Elementary. Tarrant County Master Gardener, P. J. Lockwood, and Arlington High School Horticulture Instructor, Ginger Polster, provide this unique opportunity for the students.

At Joy James Elementary School 301 students grow roses, strawberries, peppers, irises and other plants in their school’s garden. Each class has a plot where they plan, plant and cultivate their garden. The students learn about the environment and gardening.
The garden provides the teachers with a unique outdoor learning area where they can teach about the environment and gardening, but also teach reading, writing, math and science in an environment where youth seem to blossom into budding scholars.


Sue and Ray Short drive school buses every morning and afternoon. In between, they grow apples, peaches, blackberries, chickens, bees, vegetables, herbs, colored cotton and a pizza sauce garden. Last year, Sue and Ray educated about 6,000 youth, parents, teachers and youth care providers about growing apples, peaches, gardens and bees. Henrietta Creek Orchard provides educators and parents a unique field trip opportunity close to the Fort Worth. The Tarrant County Master Gardeners assist Sue and Ray with the field trips. Master Gardeners act as docents for the tours. Ray holds a Master Gardener pruning class every year for the Master Gardeners. Sue Short is also a JMG leader. Her JMG group learns about leadership and gardening. They have planned, planted and cultivated a pizza sauce garden, herb garden, butterfly garden, vegetable garden, and a colored cotton garden.

Tarrant County Master Gardeners provided JMG activities for Girl Scout and Camp Fire day camps. The Girl Scouts and Camp Fire organizations provide day camp for youth needed day care during the summer. These camps are held in schools or community canters. Master Gardeners took the JMG activity boxes to the camps and did JMG activities with 600 youth during the summer of 2002. The Tarrant County Master Gardeners are already planning more activities for the 2003 day camps.

The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department supports youth and their community in many ways. The most unique method is their support for the Junior Master Gardener and Community Garden programs. In order to provide youth safe garden areas, the Sheriff Department has broken up asphalt, dug drainage ditches, hauled compost and sand, build garden boxes and arbors, made sidewalks and hardscapes, build fences, and pulled many weeds. This unique relationship has helped the youth and community grow through the gardening programs and provided the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department with a unique method to help the community.


TNLA North Central Texas Chapter built a waterfall for Morningside Elementary. Master Gardener, Gary Taylor, designed the waterfall. The TNLA volunteers dedicated two days to building the waterfall and doing the plumping and wiring. TNLA members held their monthly meeting at Morningside. Several Morningside students did presentations about things they do in the garden.

Tarrant County JMG program is featured in the May 2003 issue of Southern Living magazine. Thanks to Dr. Bill Welch, Southern Living sent a photographer to Tarrant County to take pictures at Morningside School and Joy James Elementary. The article Dr. Welch wrote compliments the teachers and students in the Tarrant County JMG program. the garden.”

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