Description - The program has several unique outcomes that center around the growing
of rare tribal seeds including corn, squash, and beans for future
preservation. People with learning challenges tend and save the seed
while preserving part of history and learn skills of gardening. The
volunteer opportunity is spearheaded by The Gifted Learning Project and
collaborates with several homeless shelters. A focus is in on Native
American families that have learning challenged family members, but all
community is welcomed.
Category - Food, Agriculture & Nutrition, General/Other Sustainable Agriculture
Population Served - Native Americans,
Short-Term Success - Participants learn gardening skills and techniques for seed saving. All
ages and abilities of community members can do this as well as enjoy the
outdoors. This program ties in physical health and activity for all members
but is of special benefit for those living in homeless shelters with little or
no access to learning from nature while being outdoors. We have
increased in the numbers of participants an increase of 90% growth in just
Long- Term - Success Preserving of rare seeds, from a just a handful of seeds to preserving 20
pounds of ancestral seed a year. The project includes all but with a focus
on those with learning challenges. One outcome is 100% of children
attending become Junior Master Gardeners. They also learn and
understand the importance of heirloom and rare seeds. The seeds are
culturally important to Native Americans for seed saving as well as
preservation of history. For example, some of these seeds represent
those present during Lewis and Clark’s journey of discovery. The crew ate
foods that were selected by Native American guides to survive through the
harsh Midwestern winters. Visual learners thrive with the hands-on nature
learning in the garden. The children learn to select and hand pollinate corn
as well as to use fish fertilizer and cover crops. The children learn and use
many STEM or science related skills. The project offers community
building skills, higher self- esteem and a sense of ownership and
independence from growing healthy food. The families also learn about
better food choices and develop a positive attitude towards garden
snacks. Families learn critical learning skills, love of gardening and
appreciation for the environment while cultivating their minds.
Program Success Monitored By -Tribal leaders, Native Harvest Nonprofit and Master gardeners, as well as
seed libraries on Indian Reservations. Increased awareness of heirloom
seeds and preparation of foods with food grown from seed. Feedback
from shelter counselors, and other liaisons between homeless shelters
and project coordinators. Noreen Thomas, board member for The Gifted
Learning Project is master gardener and will monitor project and
completion of Junior Master Gardening program.
Examples of Program Success -The children with learning disabilities were able to complete the garden.
Children looked forward to the garden day and shared some of the
activities with the smaller children. The families were engaged and were
able to use the garden as a science project as well as an opportunity to
learn about the cultural value of the seeds. The kids would not have had
this hands on opportunity otherwise. This kind of exposure ignites the
desire to learn. High attendance rates along with increasing numbers of
children attending with their parents indicated success. This project simply
would not exist if the families did not see the value in doing this activity.
This is a volunteer opportunity and skill building event. The volunteers are
from the homeless shelter and the majority are women whose children
come also. Many are young boys and are also Native American.
The path ahead has many creative projects that are being thought of right now to make life better for those with
learning challenges. All of us as a community need to learn so that we are able to include all of those with
learning challenges. How can we make life better as our population ages and more individuals fall into the
“special needs” category? Most importantly, for those born with any variety of learning challenge to ask the
tough question of "why not?
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