Caterpillars, pumpkins and joy: Labrador summer gardening program has kids digging in the dirt

The watering can is almost as big as she is, but gardener Adalynn Jenkins has been tending to her vegetable patch all summer. 

“A caterpillar was starting to grow, then the next night a teeny-tiny light was on a leaf, and it growed. It hatched the caterpillar, and the pumpkins are starting to grow,” Adalynn said. 

The three-year-old is taking part in a new children’s program in Labrador, run by the Green Team — created through a partnership of Conservation Corps Newfoundland and Labrador and the NunatuKavut community council to teach children life skills like gardening and growing food.

Children in St. Lewis and Port Hope-Simpson were given time in a community greenhouse each week throughout the summer. The group grew strawberries, broccoli, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, pumpkins and more.

Cassandra Curl, head of the Green Team in St. Lewis, said she’s amazed at how much young children like Adalynn are able to remember and how interested they are.

A woman holds a watering can while a girl stands in front of her. They're standing in a round greenhouse with a tall pumpkin plant beside them.
The pumpkins stretched longer than Adalynn Jenkins. Casandra Curl is the team leader for the St. Lewis Green Team. (Submitted by Casandra Curl)

The greenhouse program was an extension of environmental awareness events happening in the community, said Curl. She would teach the children about a different aspect of climate change each session, she said, and was surprised to see how much they already knew about how the climate was changing.

“They understand so much more than I would have at their age,” Curl said. “One week we talked about sea ice melting and the Arctic, and they all had such an understanding of that and how it affects the polar bears and everything.”

Plants grow in a greenhouse box.
The St. Lewis Green Team ran a children’s program this summer to teach the life skill of gardening and growing vegetables. (Submitted by Casandra Curl )

With how the climate is changing, said Curl, it’s important for kids to know life skills like gardening/

“Soon we’re not going to be able to get everything that we need, like at the store, and we’re not going to be able to afford it because with prices and climate change and everything going up, so it’s really important for the kids and the youth to, like, learn how to do it,” Curl said.

While Adalynn was a natural because her grandma had shown her how to grow things in the past, it was a completely new experience for some of the children, said Curl, who hopes to do another kids’ program next summer.

A group of kids sit in a round greenhouse while two adults hold a book.
The St. Lewis Green Team held sessions throughout the summer teaching about gardening and climate change. (Submitted by Casandra Curl)

“I love seeing, like, how interested the kids are,” Curl said. “And, honestly, I’ve said this multiple times this summer, I think I’m having just as much fun as all the kids are.”

For other kids who want to try gardening, Adalynn has some simple advice: “Just plant something.” 

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