Gardening: Students, golf courses connect for day of learning

SUNDAY, MAY 27, 2012

Spokane Country Club golf superintendent Jeff Gullikson teaches local high school students about fertilizers. (Susan Mulvihill)
Spokane Country Club golf superintendent Jeff Gullikson teaches local high school students about fertilizers. (Susan Mulvihill)

There’s nothing quite like a field trip to make classroom lessons come alive.

Recently, about 50 students from local schools spent a day on the beautiful grounds of the Spokane Country Club to learn about ecology and the environment. They came from Cheney, Colville, The Community School, East Valley and Shadle Park high schools. Students from Spokane Community College’s Introduction to Greenhouse Management class also attended.

For the past 12 years, Spokane Country Club has hosted this event, where students learn about planting, soil types, water testing, identifying plants and golf course management.

Golf course superintendent Jeff Gullikson co-founded the First Green Foundation, which allows golf courses around the state to host students for a day of learning. They also discover how much fun golf can be through putting contests and other activities.

This year, the students learned how to plant seedlings from head landscaper Teresa Riddle. “You will be planting about 2,000 annuals in the beds around the clubhouse,” she said. “This is a huge help for us because there are only four of us on staff to do it.”

She demonstrated how to remove the plants from their pots and proper plant spacing to keep them healthy through the growing season.

Next up was a lecture on soil types and how water moves through them by Tim Magney from Wilbur-Ellis. “It’s important to understand this for watering the lawns here and when we need to use fertilizers and herbicides,” he explained.

Tim Kohlhauff, former staff arborist and current Urban Horticulture Coordinator for WSU Spokane County Extension, gave a demonstration on water testing. Students tested multiple samples for excess nitrogen, something the country club tests for every three months to make certain there isn’t runoff going into the ponds or aquifer.

The last presentation was Fertilizer 101, given by Gullikson. He taught the students about the nutrients plants need to thrive, how to calculate fertilizer quantities needed and when to apply them.

Gullikson and his staff received rave reviews from the instructors who participated.

Becky Strite is the agriculture teacher at Colville High School and also teaches about floriculture and forestry. “Most of the kids with me today are in my turf and golf course management class. They are learning about landscaping and how to plant a garden,” she said.

“This program is wonderful because everything’s provided so it’s not a burden on the school. They have wonderful workshops and my students get to interact with kids from other schools. They see the relevance between what I’m teaching and what they’re doing here.”

Diane Baye, an instructor at The Community School, brought students from the FFA (Future Farmers of America) program and her natural resources class.

“I’ve been bringing students here for 12 years,” she said. “It connects the students to industry – which is the school’s mission – for possible career employment and for an overall awareness about what they’re learning in school.”

Shadle Park instructors Drew Vanderpool and Rob Collins echoed that sentiment:

“It’s neat for the kids to get out and see more, to get hands-on experience with planting, do public service and also be introduced to golf,” Vanderpool said.

“And the kids are able to identify wildflowers on the country club grounds for their wildflower collection,” Collins added.

Gullikson has enjoyed watching the students participate in the program each year. “It’s fun,” he said. “The kids have a fun day of learning even though they probably don’t think they’re learning. They’ve probably never been to a golf course before. They laugh, have fun and create a memory.”

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at inthegarden@live.com.Visit her blog at susansinthegarden. blogspot.com for more gardening information, tips and events.

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