Kids at College Program Ignites Interest in Learning and “Love” for Rutgers
On a beautiful spring day, more than 140 fourth-graders visited the George H. Cook Campus and fell in love with the Rutgers Gardens.
The students’ visit was part of “Kids at College,” a nine-year old program in the Old Bridge School District in New Jersey that focuses on getting youngsters at a very early age excited about the prospect of attending college. Twelve elementary schools in the Old Bridge district have been visiting colleges and universities on a regular basis. In addition to the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, several other New Jersey institutions of higher education have welcomed the kids participating in the program, including the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton, Kean, Seton Hall, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and others.
This spring day, the students visited Rutgers Gardens, College Farm, Nicholas Residence Hall, Neilson Dining Hall, and the Cook-Douglass Recreation Center. They were accompanied by student volunteers of the Rutgers chapter of Alpha Zeta, the national honorary and service fraternity, and staff of the Office of Community Engagement (OCE). A few days later, a thick packet of letters arrived on the desk of the OCE Director, Diana Orban Brown—thank you notes from the children, a number of which were love letters to Rutgers Gardens.
Here are some excerpts:
“Thank you so much for showing us all around Rutgers. We saw Rutgers farms, the dormitories and the gardens. I loved all of it. But one of my favorite parts of the trip was seeing the gardens. It was beautiful and the lilacs smelt wonderful. I learned that if trees have berries on them, they are a female. I also learned that if you chop down a tree and count the lines, you can tell how old it is. …It was a lot of fun but the most important thing is that I learned something and I am now thinking about my future.” — J.N.
[Editor’s note: Larry is a huge magnolia tree in Rutgers Gardens with solid limbs starting close to the ground–ideal for climbing. Legend has it that it got its name a while back when a child asked the student intern/guide what the tree’s name was. Thinking fast, he said, “Larry.” And the name stuck.]
“I learned a lot of things. My favorite part about the trip was Larry, the Magnolia tree. I climbed the highest in my class. I also love the paths through the woods and all the beautiful flowers in the Gardens. Mira and Casey [both students] were our tour guides, and they taught me so many facts; for example, bamboo is in the grass family. …The whole campus was so beautiful; I want to go there so badly when I’m older.” — R.W.
“I learned so many things. One thing that I learned was that two giants used to live [in Rutgers Gardens] and all that was left behind was their two green chairs.” — M.C.
[Editor’s Note: The giant green Adirondack chairs in the Otkens Gardens near the Sun and Shade Garden and the Log Cabin were built by Garden Director Bruce Crawford and a former student and are an ever-popular place for kids and adults alike.]
“I felt so small in the big chairs. I also loved all the flowers in the garden. They were so pretty. It was funny that our tour guide told us that if we bark at a tree it would grow faster. So then people started to bark at the trees. Thank you for our trip. It was the most fun time in my life!” — K. M.
“Thank you very much for the wonderful trip; it was the best trip of the year! My favorite part of the trip was going to the Rutgers farms. My favorite animals to see were the piglets. I think they were so adorable. If I could adopt one, that would be swell. I liked it when we saw the lunch room. It was like I was at a fancy restaurant. My favorite part at Rutgers Gardens was going on the bamboo path. When we got to the end of the path, we saw a magnificent lake.” — J.C.
And, summing up the whole day:
“Thank you for letting us see Rutgers. It is one of the nicest colleges I have ever seen. Thank you for teaching us such wonderful things. I learned about the magnolia tree, and your dining room was great. Finally, I learned that I want to go to college at Rutgers when I grow up.” — G.K.
“Thank you for everything you have done for us at Rutgers University. I hope that when I grow up I can get a scholarship to go to Rutgers so that I could maybe see you again. Thank you!! I loved the dorms and bamboo from the garden. Thanks!! RUTGERS RULES!!” — N.R.
Rutgers Gardens encompasses nearly 180 acres of maintained and natural areas on the George H. Cook Campus. Open 365 days a year, it is one of the few botanical gardens in the country that does not charge an entrance fee. It hosts a wide range of public activities to provide support for the care of the grounds and offers a wide range of educational programs for kids and adults, alike.
You can visit Rutgers gardens year-round check out its website for a schedule of classes and activities open to the public.