Tastes, smells, sounds and textures delighted as West Central Florida Girl Scout Troop 61541 explored the Eckerd College Community Farm on Aug. 26. The scouts were eager to earn their community garden badges and also learn a little more about the environment during their first visit to the College in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The group of seven kindergarteners was treated to an interactive presentation by EC Community Farm Faculty Director, Environmental Studies Instructor and Internship Coordinator David Himmelfarb, Ph.D., on the life cycle of plants and the chemical makeup of dirt. During the presentation, Himmelfarb passed around a variety of local plants—such as pigeon pea, moringa, lamb’s ears and curry tree—for the girls to touch and taste. A particular favorite was the edible leaves of the cranberry hibiscus plant, a native Florida shrub with a sugary, tart flavor.
“When we taste that sugar, it’s kind of like tasting the sun,” Himmelfarb said while explaining the process of photosynthesis.
Another favorite was lemongrass, a type of grass that when crushed exudes a lemony scent. “It smells like Girl Scout Cookies!” one girl exclaimed, brandishing the leaf to her friends.
Girl Scouts earned their community garden badges at the farm.
The Girl Scouts also heard from Eckerd’s newly appointed farm manager, Maggie Jensen ’11, during the second activity of the morning—pineapple planting. Each girl was given her very own pineapple crown to plant at the heart of the Community Farm. On average, a pineapple takes over three years to grow, a fact the troop was shocked to learn.
During the activity, Farmer Maggie encouraged the girls to think about all of the time and effort that goes into growing and harvesting pineapples.
She said she believes that introducing children to concepts and activities like these is a “gateway” to living more sustainable lives as adults, saying, “The earlier the better!”
This visit to the farm was planned by troop leaders Marina Mullins and Aly Crosno ’22, who also work as park rangers at nearby Fort De Soto Park. They both have been working at Fort De Soto for a year, with Crosno having been hired after she graduated from Eckerd with majors in environmental studies and East Asian Studies and minors in sustainability and Japanese. From Paris, Tennessee, Crosno was first introduced to the Eckerd farm during her time as a student taking classes centered around gardening and sustainability. “Eckerd is somewhere I hold very close to my heart,” she said.
Her goal with Troop 61541 was to create a community focused on exploration and environmentalism. Over the summer, the girls have gained three different badges involving the environment. “I really want to respect and help the community,” Crosno said, passing out the newly earned badges.
The girls left the farm amid the clamor of young environmentalists, eager to come back to see the growth of their pineapples and explore the natural world around them.