Connecting Youth with Plants, Place, and Culture
Tend, Gather and Grow is a project dedicated to educating youth about wild edible and medicinal plants and the rich cultural traditions that surround them. Through developing a teaching toolkit on Northwest plants and providing teacher trainings, the project aims to build food security, promote health and facilitate connections with the land.
Tend, Gather & Grow Program Philosophy
Nature Deficit Disorder: children spend an average of 30 minutes playing outside per day yet interact with screens for seven hours. They can identify over 1,000 logos but fewer than 10 native plants.
Influenced by a fast-paced society, youth share the experience of frequenting supermarkets and convenience stores where they access high calorie processed foods and globally sourced produce. In addition to contributing to alarming rates of malnutrition, obesity, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses, a lack of connection to food production and the path it takes to reach our tables results in detachment from the environmental and economic issues that drive food insecurities.
Educating younger generations on the gifts of the land has always been a cornerstone of indigenous teachings to strengthen mind, body, and spirit.
As Skokomish Elder Bruce Miller said, “The Forest was once our Walmart.” The Pacific Northwest is teeming with wild plants including berries, greens, roots and seeds that are nutritionally superior to store-bought foods. Wild plants also provide medicine and materials for traditional technologies. These common and accessible “weeds” are often found in our own backyards.
Revitalizing Wild, Edible and Medicinal Plant Knowledge
During GRuB’s 15 years in building just and sustainable food systems, the value of revitalizing wild edible and medicinal plant knowledge has emerged as a priority. In spring of 2016, GRuB educator, Elise Krohn gathered a team of twelve people with skills in plant knowledge, innovative teaching techniques, tribal food sovereignty, community programming, evaluation, media outreach, cultural resilience and holistic approaches to nutrition and wellness to develop the Tend, Gather and Grow Teaching Toolkit. Six team members are tribal.
The toolkit is for community educators and K-12 instructors with an emphasis on serving Native and regional communities, and includes:
- A curriculum covering over 25 northwest plants. The 60+ lessons align with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics (STEAM) education principles and Next Generation Science Standards.
- Short teaching videos featuring Salish storytellers, plant experts and youth.
- Educational materials including games, posters, plant identification cards and recipes.
Through hands-on activities, students explore themes in wild food traditions, herbal medicine, plant technologies, cultural ecosystems, tree communities and the art of noticing.
Indigenous plant knowledge is woven throughout the curriculum. This, as well as plant knowledge from other cultures, grounds students in who they are and connects them to where they live. Lessons are being piloted in diverse teaching environments including public, tribal and private schools, community classes, outdoor camps and aftercare programs.
The Tend project draws upon regional Native knowledge keepers to ensure learning reflects a cultural resilience and holistic approach to nutrition and wellness. As opposed to standard classroom lectures and testing, learning is built upon student strengths, such as awakening knowledge of common plants and the engagement of tactile senses to ignite an intrinsic curiosity of nature. Participating youth will gain skills to tell their own stories through writing, artwork and video production.
Proposed Tend, Gather and Grow outcomes include:
- Increase youth access to and consumption of nutritious wild plants.
- Fill an unmet need for youth-centered educational resources on wild foods and medicines that are hands-on, placed based, multi-media and culturally relevant.
- Build student media skills and media literacy through curriculum activities and video projects to support career and technical training.
- Develop student skills in sensory observation, storytelling and documentation as a means for self-expression and social change.
- Build a sense of cultural pride among Northwest Native children and youth, and a greater understanding of indigenous people and connection to local landscapes among non-native students.
- Increase the number of community educators who teach children and youth about healthy food behaviors, physical activity and positive interactions with the land.
- Build partnerships across organizations and tribal entities with shared goals.
- Provide a positive programmatic model that is driven by community need, student evaluation, and is carried out in collaboration with the beneficiary communities.
Tend, Gather and Grow Project Funders and Partners include: Feeding Seven Generations, The Squaxin Island Tribe, The Muckleshoot Tribe, The Tulalip Tribes, The Suquamish Tribe, The Nisqually Tribe, The Puyallup Tribe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Connecting People with Nature Program, Washington Dental Health, Hancock Forestry, Pacific Education Institute and University of Washington Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health and Center for Conservation Biology.
For more information on the project please contact Elise Krohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.