Roots and Shoots Day Camp, a weeklong camp for children at the Deer Isle-Sunset Congregational Church, held its inaugural session in late July.
Roots and Shoots is a “spin-off from the Vacation Bible School theme,” said the Reverend Amy Vaughn, the church’s pastor and camp’s director. Roots and Shoots, as the name suggests, had a gardening focus.
The church has a history of involvement in the community, but wanted to pursue something for children, said Vaughn. The gardening theme ties in with other nearby events like the church’s soup suppers and the Deer Isle farmers’ market, which is held weekly across the street.
Each day, the children work in the garden to grow vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, squash, and beans. They began by filling empty garden beds with dirt, added compost, and planted seeds and seedlings. Each camper also tended to a take-home potted plant.
The vegetables grown from the camper’s efforts will be stored and used in the Community Pot Soup Suppers, according to Vaughn. “We wanted there to be a service component to the camp,” she said. “These guys are helping contribute by planting the vegetables.”
The campers, who ranged in age from 5 to 12, also cooked their own lunches. They used fresh ingredients to create meals such as vegetable pizzas, homemade chicken fingers, and zucchini muffins. On Wednesday, July 17, the campers went shopping at the farmers’ market to buy ingredients for their lunches.
The children have been “genuinely productive” in the kitchen, said Vaughn. “We have to keep coming up with more things for them to cook.”
Besides gardening and cooking, the campers make crafts, play games, and learn Bible stories.
Mary Howe, a book artist, has been helping the campers create their own “almanacs.” The children used vegetables and paint to decorate their books with colorful prints.
The camp attracted 25 children, which was the maximum number it could support, said Vaughn. All but a few of the campers were island students. There was no charge to attend the camp; the church sponsored it.
Roots and Shoots benefitted from the help of several volunteers, including Maine Sea Coast Mission summer intern Rebekah Worley. Worley appeared as the character “Farmer Jones,” leading the campers in farm chores, games, and music.
Like Vaughn, Worley has been impressed by the campers’ interest and productivity in gardening and cooking. “I never thought kids could be so into veggies,” remarked Worley.