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Spotlight on Gardening with Gruszka

Written by Lexie Reeb '16, Marketing & Communications Associate

The key takeaway I hope campers gain from Gardening with Gruszka is an appreciation for the outdoors. I would much rather see kids learning and playing outside than looking at screens all day.jered gruszka

We welcome you to an inside look at Gardening with Gruszka, a unique and enriching camp experience that combines the joys of gardening with valuable life lessons. The Mini Camp is led by Jered Gruszka, a passionate teacher who will be starting his 17th year as a second grade teacher at Community School this fall. Gardening is one of his favorite hobbies, and he decided to share the joy it brings him by creating the camp about 5 years ago. It is clearly a fan favorite as it is usually the first camp to fill up. Gardening with Gruszka offers an opportunity for kids to connect with nature, learn about plants and bugs, and develop essential skills while having fun in the great outdoors. There are many aspects of this camp, which may explain why it is so popular among students.
Gardening with Gruszka is more than just planting seeds; it's a chance for children to slow down and immerse themselves in a patient and rewarding process. As Jered puts it, “Gardening is a slow thing, but it’s an active thing. There are kids that really want to dig in the soil, and some kids have never done that before. Our campers ask good questions, and they get to discuss and learn new things. For gardening you have to put all this work in and for 4 or 5 weeks you may not even see anything, or plants are just starting to grow. Gardening takes patience; you don’t receive immediate gratification, but you learn that success takes time. You really have to slow down and practice being careful and delicate, which are skills that a lot of kids don’t typically focus on.”
One of the highlights of Gardening with Gruszka is the opportunity for children to connect with nature on a personal level. They dig in the soil with their hands, learn to differentiate between helpful and harmful insects, and appreciate the role of bees as vital pollinators. Jered encourages a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world, teaching kids to appreciate and protect their environment. He expressed how grateful he is for the grounds at Community School. “We have this amazing campus,” he said. “And gardening is one of those things, with a little bit of time and a little bit of care you get these fun ideas, you get fresh air, you often get some food, and you sometimes end up just feeding the animals.”
Gardening is a versatile hobby that can be adapted to suit different age groups, individual preferences, and available resources. Jered went on to say that gardening fosters “a lot of different skills in an approachable, kid-friendly, and adult-friendly way.” Jered also explained one of the biggest upsides to Gardening with Gruszka is that it “is new for everybody at the start of each camp, which levels the playing field.” “Perhaps the biggest takeaway,” he added, “is that it is not competitive. There is nothing wrong with competitiveness but not everything needs to have that component, and gardening is one of those things that eliminates competition.”
Jered also ensures that children experience various gardening projects, from planting and weeding to exploring bugs and going on nature walks. By offering a diverse range of activities, the camp allows kids to find their entry point into the world of gardening. One notable activity was with Goliath sunflowers. “At home, we began growing Goliath sunflowers because they are my son, Rocco’s, favorite flower, and then we started growing them at Community School and did a math lesson where we took the head of the sunflower and estimated how many seeds were in it. The kids got to count them and put them in groups of ten and then 100. One of the sunflowers we grew had over 700 seeds!”
Over the years, Gardening with Gruszka has left a lasting impact on both Jered and the campers. The camp has grown and evolved, just like the plants they cultivate. Every year, Jered learns something new from the kids or from his own research, keeping the experience fresh and exciting. Gardening with Gruszka is much more than a week-long gardening camp; it's a journey of discovery, patience, and appreciation for all that nature has to offer. It is a true gem among our summer camp offerings, providing an experience that nurtures the gifts of mind, body, and spirit.