Florida Master Gardener Volunteers Help Youth Grow Up Florida-Friendly

July 21, 2020

Florida students can now learn the nine principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) -- guidelines that help yards thrive and protect Florida’s waterways -- from a new illustrated book, thanks to UF/IFAS Florida Master Gardener Volunteers.

The book, “Growing Up Florida-Friendly,” was written and illustrated by two Florida Master Gardener Volunteers and designed for grade-school children.

“There are not a lot of resources for children that speak to this topic on a friendly, easy to apply level,” said Kim Pepitone Cottrell, Florida Master Gardener Volunteer, and the book’s author. “Evelyn, the book’s illustrator, took my idea and brought it to life. Readers will follow Flory, an orange blossom, on a journey with Russell and Harriet through the nine FFL principles.”

Flory, Russell and Harriett represent a fun and innovative way to share the nine principles with children. The main characters take children on a journey through Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ and emphasize the importance of learning early to keep Florida’s water clean and protect natural resources.

“From the get-go, it is important for kids to understand the connection to science when they talk about plants and gardening,” said Cottrell. “We want to teach children from the beginning that they can make a positive impact on our environment, even when gardening in their own backyards.”

Readers are asked to become an “FFL kid,” which provides goals along the way. The overall mission is to let kids know that they can play a role in saving our waterfront.

“All roads lead to the aquifer, and we have to protect our natural resources,” Cottrell said. “Taking responsibility for behavior from the beginning forms good habits that children will carry into the future. Everything you do can have a positive or negative impact on our environment. This book helps kids see the positive outcomes they can have.”

Bill Lester, who holds a doctorate in plant medicine and serves as the UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County horticulture agent and Master Gardener Volunteer Program leader, encourages volunteers to identify unique ways to reach residents in the county, especially youth.

“We are always looking for a diverse, strong representation of the community within our Master Gardener Volunteers, where they can bring different talents and abilities to the program,” Lester said. “When they bring unique ideas like this to me, I support them to run with it and ask them how I can help. This book is great because it is a unique project for Master Gardener Volunteers to take on, not something we have done before. It will help educate children, adults and our local residents.”

While many UF/IFAS Extension agents educate youth around the state on FFL principles, this is the first tool of its kind created exclusively for students.

“I loved creating the graphics,” said Evelyn Lavaughn Davis, the book’s illustrator and Master Gardener Volunteer. “I am a substitute teacher and see the need for more Florida living education in our schools that can help children and their parents understand best practices.”

“I want children to understand the impact humans have on what makes Florida a beautiful state to live in,” Davis said. “I hope outdoor experiences will inspire them to be good stewards of the land.”

The book provides an interactive opportunity between teachers and students or can be used as a stand-alone resource. Large order discounts are available. To order “Growing Up FFL,” visit the UF/IFAS Bookstore website.

About University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. For more information visit