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heaven is a garden

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Beyond Prison : Insight Garden Program

October 4, 2016

In the 1970s, I was a part of a team that taught a one year intensive certificate program on Landscape Development and Maintenance at a community college near New Paltz, NY.

I was a young instructor but was very earnest and devoted to teaching. Then one day the president of the college called me in and told me that I, alone, would be teaching all my courses at a men’s correctional facility 44 miles away.

What??!! all my classes? away from the campus? in a prison?

After much protesting, I was sent ‘away’ to teach the entire program at a men’s prison. Well, as often happens, it was one of the best experiences in my life. I taught full time there for 2 years and still cherish the memories.

 Otisville Correctional Facility classroom  - but not my specific class


Otisville Correctional Facility classroom – but not my specific class

I have a lot of fun stories. We installed walks, plant beds and even a solar greenhouse (it was donated by a friend who had it on his property) where we grew organic salad greens. I was not backed by any grants or organizations – I just forged ahead.

I taught college level classes on plant identification and usage, horticultural techniques 1 and 2, soil science, landscape design, greenhouse management tree and shrub pruning, small engine repair and turfgrass management.

The best thing was to hear from my students later (mostly black and Latino from NYC) who got out and got jobs based on their hort. training and their knowledge of landscape plants. One student got a high position with the Parks department, he wrote such a wonderful letter thanking me.

I left after 2 years and I never found out what happened to our solar greenhouse. Today I hear that similar programs are happening around the country and it makes me so glad.

As a kid from the city, I know exactly how life-changing developing a connection with the natural world can be: I remember being 20 years old when I realized that sunflower seeds came from a real sunflower and not a box. An epiphany.

sunflower-seeds_sunflower

Today, Kallopeia Foundation is supporting transformative prison programming (see their multi-media website here: www.beyondprison.us) including a project called the Insight Garden Program.

Here, inmates at San Quentin prison in Northern California are offered vocational training in horticulture and are also introduced to holistic practices like mindfulness meditation. I love this approach because it enhances a connection to nature. Click here: http://insightgardenprogram.org/

from the Insight program

from the Insight program

Please check out their article called Beyond Prison – Breaking New Ground (click on this) from the website. They are doing a great job!

We need to offer more opportunities for all city kids to touch the earth and work with it – not just in prison. Landscape development careers offer the grounding we all need in this screen-dominated age.

they have a video too - go to their site

they have a video too – go to their site

Musings, Teachers/Designers/Writers

Nature Words Deleted from the Dictionary..oh no!

March 1, 2015

acorn

In 2009 Oxford Junior Dictionary (Oxford University Press) revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. So they deleted these words from the Junior dictionary. These are the words deleted:

acorn

adder

ash

beech

bluebell

buttercup

catkin

cowslip,

cygnet

dandelion

fern

hazel

heather

heron,

 ivy

kingfisher,

 lark

mistletoe,

nectar

newt

otter,

pasture and 

willow

The words taking their places in the new edition included attachmentblock-graphblogbroadbandbullet-pointcelebrity,chatroomcommitteecut-and-pasteMP3 player and voice-mail.

This is an outright shame because as  Wendell Berry wrote: “… we need a particularizing language, for we love what we particularly know.”

When I was a child, I asked my mother what this was (see above), she said it was Nature. For some time after that, every time someone said the word, ‘Nature’, I imagined a dandelion seedhead.  

 “Humans seldom value what they cannot name.”  – Elaine Brooks