Students earn Junior Master Gardener certificates

A year’s worth of participation in the Junior Master Gardener program recently came to a close for a group of middle school students who visited the Texas A&M University horticulture department in College Station and took part in a certificate ceremony.

Middle school students, parents, faculty and school board members from Elysian Fields Independent School District toured the Texas A&M horticulture department and participated in a full day of sessions depicting Texas’ horticulture industry.

The 50-plus students received Certified Junior Master Gardener certificates at the end of the day. The ceremony was the final activity of the year, giving Elysian Fields the distinction as the first school in Texas to implement the Junior Master Gardener curriculum in developing a horticulture course taken by the entire grade level.

“In addition to a wide range of JMG lessons, students took part in entrepreneurship ventures, teaching other older and younger students and engaging in several service learning projects as a part of their certification process,” said Randy Seagraves, AgriLife Extension program specialist in College Station. “The effort at Elysian Fields Middle School is led by two dynamic teachers (Melinda Dillon and T.J. Tiller) who have garnered enthusiastic support from the community…from students to administration, families, local politicians and business owners.”

The students toured the main campus in the morning and participated in an Aggie Horticulture visit in the afternoon.

“The afternoon visit was hosted at the Horticulture Forest Science Building with an introduction to the horticulture department by student advisor Megan Teel, then a rotation through workshops hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife and horticulture faculty,” Seagraves said.

Sessions included Horticulture Industry in Texas/Viticulture led by Justin Scheiner, AgriLife Extension viticulturist specialist; Propagation Workshop led by Andrew King; and Art of Horticulture/Floral Design led by Lisa Whittlesey, AgriLife Extension horticulture specialist.

“We have seen a great improvement in student participation and behavior ever since we started with the JMG program,” Dillon said. “Within a year we saw our in-school suspension number go from 25 percent to 12 percent. The kids want to stay in class to be able to participate in JMG. This alone has helped our student with their class work because they are in class. The students have a sense of pride in the work that they have accomplished this year—from building a hoop house to growing vegetables and now with the donation from Dr. Scheiner putting in a vineyard. We have been working in the school system for a total of 29 years and this is the best program we have ever participated in.”

For more information about the Junior Master Gardener program, visit