UNIONTOWN -- The children arranged lady's mantle, lamb's ear and hosta leaves in triangular shapes. They kneaded dough, cubed ham, baked cookies and picked fresh lettuce for salad.
They pruned, planted and designed a flower bed. They watched mother wren feed her babies and caught frogs from the pond.
Members of the Carroll Junior Garden Club went to a garden party Wednesday and learned much about nature, too.
Children ages 8 to 14 gathered at the home of their club director, Mary Ellen Bay, for a picnic. Bay wanted more than just a fun-in-the-sun day for the 14 club members. She planned learning stations and enlisted help from her friends in the Carroll Garden Club.
"They don't love every lesson," she said. "But, I offer them variety. They enjoy and they learn."
The children had started lettuce plants in flats at their February meeting. Four months later, leaves from those plants filled their picnic salad.
"Yuk, the water is really dirty from the leaves," said Maggie Miller, 5, as she peered into the large container where the children rinsed soil from the lettuce.
"Don't worry," said Juanita Adams, holding a salad spinner as Maggie wound its handle. "We aren't going to wash any more leaves with this water. We'll pour it right back on some other plants."
That lesson followed the club's theme: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Maggie, who had tagged along with her older sister, joined most activities enthusiastically. She ladled a water and fertilizer mixture onto snapdragons and earned her own "pretty orange flower."
Heather Myers, 11, scooped out dirt with her hands and planted flowers. She said she doesn't mind getting down in the dirt.
"I love planting my own flowers," said Heather, who has a garden of her own.
A. J. Condon and Mike Pond, both 11 and junior gardeners for the past four years, said lessons learned in the club helped them
plant their vegetable gardens.
"We grow everything at home," said A. J. "We have a 15-by-15-foot vegetable garden and six gardens of all different shapes and sizes around our house."
"We plant our vegetables in May," said Mike, stretching his hands to show how tall his plants are now. "I love to eat what I grow."
As the two boys headed off to the pond in search of frogs, Bay said they were good growers and organizers.
"Of course, they would both just love it if they fell in the water," she said with a laugh.
Indoors, the house bustled with activity. Bay, in a dark blue apron, moved among her students and occasionally offered help and glasses of iced tea, spiced with fresh mint and orange juice.
In a bright sun room, three little girls worked intently at creating table arrangements from freshly picked flowers.
"Can anybody use these?" asked Greg Condon, 8, carrying a bunch of pink snapdragons.
Shannon Leahy, 7, filled out her arrangement with them.
In the dining room, other children shaped whole-grain dough into balls for rolls. In the kitchen, Heather Miller offered samples of her home-made corn bread with shredded carrots and shelled shrimp for jambalaya.
"The children made most of the lunch, but I kitchen-tested all the recipes first," said Bay.
Carolyn Scott said Garden Club members look forward to helping Bay with the picnic every year.
"Mary Ellen is such a great teacher and she gets so involved with the children," she said.