#WVSUExtensionStories: The Garden Path to Success

Like a lot of little girls, Emily Moore wasn’t a fan of creepy, crawly insects and worms. But she helped her fourth grade class at Buffalo Elementary in Putnam County construct a school garden anyway, with the help of WVSU Extension Service. Along the way, several seeds were planted, one of which was a love of gardening that is leading Emily to a potential career as a researcher and Extension educator.

Now a college sophomore, majoring in biology at WVSU, Emily has been reunited with the Extension program that introduced her to the world of agriculture and the very garden that started it all.

During the summer of 2014, Emily worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) for Melissa Stewart, assistant program director for WVSU Extension Service’s agriculture department. One of her tasks was to revamp the garden at Buffalo Elementary and introduce agriculture education to the school’s preschool students.

“It was so much fun and a good experience for me,” Emily says of her early exposure to gardening through WVSU. “I want little kids now to have the same experience I did.”

Using the Junior Master Gardener (JMG) curriculum, Emily adapted activities to the preschool age level, including picket fence design, garden building and container garden development.

“It’s great to see someone who experienced this program as a kid return and teach it to the next generation,” says Melissa. “That experience is helping her revamp the program to an even younger audience.”

While JMG is traditionally designed for students beginning in third grade, Melissa, West Virginia’s state coordinator for the program, is leading efforts to adapt it to the preschool level. Emily’s work at Buffalo was among the first JMG interactions at that age group across the nation.

Reuniting with Melissa in the garden helped ease Emily’s transition to WVSU, where she currently resides on campus after transferring from another university.

“I’m happier at State,” says Emily, who balances her biology coursework with outreach opportunities through WVSU Extension Service.

Melissa looks forward to working with Emily on additional projects during her academic career and attributes that childhood interaction to helping guide her to WVSU as a young adult.

“Such lifelong connections are what Extension is all about,” Melissa says. “I’m thrilled Emily is with us again, planting those seeds in what could be the Yellow Jackets of tomorrow.”

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