Last Thursday, a simple-looking post and plastic tube was erected at the Summit Community Gardens. However, looks can be deceiving: the pole is actually a high-tech weather station built with funding from NASA's Summer of Innovation program. The station will monitor a variety of data about the local climate including temperature, humidity, rainfall, soil temperature and moisture, even leaf moisture. The weather station will benefit local gardeners and youth education programs.
The NASA Summer of Innovation Mini-Grant program looks for "exemplary, community-based, middle-school and teacher programs" that focus on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education, according to the program's website. The Summit Community Gardens was chosen to receive a $2,400 mini-grant for its youth program and provided funding for the organization to construct the weather station and administer three free workshops aimed at educators and children ages 5-15.
Feedback from the NASA-funded workshops held this week will help guide the future of the Summit Community Garden youth outreach program. "We hope to have more of an ongoing youth program that runs throughout the summer," said Garden Coordinator, Erica Frei. The vision for the youth program is to not only utilize the weather station to teach kids about how food is grown, but to also promote local, organic food and healthy eating.
The first workshop was held on Saturday, Sept. 22 and taught local kids, ages 5-10, how seeds travel. Frei, Jill Smith (From Park City Nursery), and Joe Nicholls (the meteorologist who helped install the device), were on-site to lead the workshop. The lesson plan, titled "Have Seed will Travel" was created by NASA and "introduces students to the concept of adaption to increase an organism's ability to survive."
Frei says that the workshops funded by the mini-grant will help support the gardens' growing youth program. "Being outside is a good way for [kids] to discover science without really realizing it," says Frei, "there is a lot of science behind growing food."
The next workshop is for local educators and will be held Thursday, Sept. 27. The workshop will teach educators how the weather station works and how it applies to food that we grow. The staff hopes the workshop will lead to more partnerships with local schools. The last NASA-funded workshop will be held on Saturday, Sept. 29 for children ages 10-15 and will focus on soil.
Although the NASA mini-grant has bolstered the Gardens' youth program, the addition of the weather station will have much wider benefits to the community. Executive Director of the Community Gardens, Anne Dorsey says "the goal for the weather station is to empower plot holders and provide greater resources to learn about how wind, sun, etc. affect what we grow and eat."
Eventually all of the data gathered by the weather station will be available to the public on the Gardens' website. "Park City has such a unique climate," Dorsey says, "[data from the station] will help people know what and when to plant and be more successful in their growing."
The Gardens will be partnering with other organizations and meteorologist, Nicholls, to teach the public how to use the station's data effectively. The addition of the weather station is particularly important because it is the first station in the area geared toward community gardening.
Data from the weather station will also be added to global databases tracking weather stations around the world. Dorsey says she hopes working with the global databases will allow students to compare climates around the world and gain a global perspective on what can grow in different conditions.
For community members interested in getting involved, Summit Community Gardens is currently raising money to sustain the youth program, expand plot offerings, provide better tools and signage and to support garden staff. The organization is also looking for volunteers and more opportunities to work with local schools. Dorsey encourages curious community members to take a tour of the garden and weather station.
To donate to the Summit Community Gardens, visit their website at www.summitcommunitygardens.org . To volunteer or set up a garden tour email Anne Dorsey (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Erica Frei (email@example.com ).