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Spring into gardening with kids

May 10, 2009
By Shannon Dygert, For The Leader-Herald

Children are fascinated by plants and the great outdoors.

What better way to introduce children to the wonder of plants than to create a "Turtle Sprout."

With spring arriving, this great hands-on activity is perfect for youth kindergarten through sixth grade.

This activity requires little preparation and can be used to teach parts of plants, how they grow and what plants need in order to grow.

This activity was created through Cornell Universities Garden Based Learning Program.

The supplies you will need to make a turtle sprout are as follows: a 4-inch plastic pot saucer; knee high stocking; craft foam; untreated grass seed; potting soil; scissors; markers; google eyes; tacky glue; cereal bowl; and water.

To create your turtle sprout, follow these directions and watch as your child's eyes light up.

Cut craft foam into the shape of a turtle "skeleton." Add eyes, claws, scales or other decorations using markers, google eyes, and tacky glue.

Place the "skeleton" on top of the 4-inch pot saucer. The saucer serves as the turtle's belly.

Roll one knee high stocking up your arm until completely stretched.

Starting near your elbow, roll the stocking down to your wrist. From here you can remove it from your hand, creating a bowl shape.

Scoop two to four heaping spoonfuls of untreated grass seed into the bottom of your stocking bowl.

Fill the stocking with soil, unrolling as you go along so that the stocking can hold more soil. You'll need about two cups of soil per stocking. It's much easier to work with dry soil than moist soil.

Holding your stocking, which looks more snake-like than shell-like, at the open end, gently bounce and press against the palm of your other hand to create more of a pancake/shell shape.

Once you've achieved the shape you desire, tie the stocking off close to the soil, very much like a balloon.You can trim the excess stocking off if you'd like.

Looking at your shell you should be able to see the grass seed through the stocking. If the seed is gathered in one spot, gently use your fingers to spread the seed out evenly over the top of the shell. Be careful though, grass seed needs some light to germinate so you don't want the seed to be buried beneath the soil.

Once the seed is evenly spread make sure to water the shell generously.

The stocking can often prevent water from reaching the soil if watered from the top. A good alternative is to fill a cereal-sized bowl full of water and place your shell inside.

Capillary action will draw the water up through the soil until completely moistened.

This can take 1 to 2 hours depending on how dry the soil is. Feel free to flip your shell around half way through.

Once watered, place your shell on top of your skeleton to complete your turtle and find a sunny spot for it to sit.

Check once a day to see if your shell needs water.

The turtle shell should sprout within a week.

With enough light and water your shell will continue to grow for months.

If the grass gets too tall trim with scissors to shorten or create interesting designs. To view the entire activity visit

If you would like more information about growing plants or to enroll your child in 4-H contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Fulton and Montgomery Counties at 762-3909.



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