UMD garden program helps to grow scholars
Students from the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School took turns watering gardens planted in the middle of a hockey rink Wednesday. Full of herbs and vegetables including anise hyssop, bergamot, sage, tomatillos, celeriac and eggplant, the students were ta...
Students from the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School took turns watering gardens planted in the middle of a hockey rink Wednesday.
Full of herbs and vegetables including anise hyssop, bergamot, sage, tomatillos, celeriac and eggplant, the students were taking part in a program that teaches them about science, nutrition and medicine through gardening. Held by the University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth's Center of American Indian and Minority Health, this is the first year of the Journey Garden Program, one of three for Fond du Lac students offered by the center.
The program blends western and traditional cultures, said Tara Loushine, community program specialist for the center.
"There are lots of different things you can learn from a simple garden," she said.
Elders from the Fond du Lac Reservation's Gitigaan garden club have helped out with the three-week program at the Ojibwe school, teaching students about old world and heirloom vegetables and native plants, and blessing the gardens before they begin each day.
"These kids, as they get older, we need to train them to grow their own food," said Leland Debe, a member of the club. "If they can follow through and learn the mechanics ... they're helping the world and they're helping themselves."
The program is used as a way to keep the ninth- and 10th-grade students engaged throughout the summer, and get them interested in careers in medicine. Almost all of the students said they hoped to work in the medical field.
Only about 50 percent of American Indians in ninth grade will graduate from high school in four years, said Dr. Joy Dorscher, director of the center. Programs like the Journey Garden program help keep students excited about learning, particularly in the areas of science, she said.
Students enjoyed making lip balm out of beeswax and learning about how medicinal plants were used in the past, compared to how some are used today.
"Tobacco was used as a cultural and spiritual thing," said Joni Thompson, 13. "Now it's abused."
"We need to get back to using tobacco culturally," said Cailley Thompson, 15.
Gardens have become increasingly important in light of the rising cost of food and gas, Debe said, noting his group has planted more than 200 this year.
"A lot of the food could run into the same thing tomatoes did this year," he said. "This is part of the process of preparing for that."
Dorscher said she hopes the program will show students how agriculture affects their health.
"It brings home to students how you as an individual, planted in good soil, can grow into something really spectacular as well," she said.