Tend, Gather and Grow

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.

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Connecting Youth with Plants, Place and Culture:

Children increasingly spend time indoors engaging with media as opposed to exploring wild spaces. The average American child spends less than 30 minutes outdoors daily, but interacts at least seven hours a day with screens. They can identify over 1,000 corporate advertising symbols, but less than ten local 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 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 back yards.

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 highly-skilled educators, nutrition specialists, community food project coordinators and media experts to create the Tend, Gather and Grow Teaching Toolkit. This toolkit will be utilized by community educators and K-12 instructors with an emphasis on serving Native and regional communities, and will include:

  • A curriculum for educators covering 25 plants, nutrition education, seasonal attunement and local ecosystems. Lessons include interactive teaching tools (i.e., stories, games and hands-on activities), and fit into STEM education and Next Generation Science Standards.
  • A guidebook for youth chronicling regional plant knowledge.
  • Videos featuring children and youth demonstrating their plant knowledge.
  • An interactive game that teaches plant uses throughout the seasons.

Through learning about specific plants and ecosystems, students are introduced to topics in nutrition, indigenous food systems, history and cultural traditions, botany, ecology, herbal medicine, traditional technologies and art. 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.

Tend educators are currently piloting lessons in GRuB high school youth programs, tribal and public schools and community classes. By the end of 2017, seasonal train-the-trainers workshops will be offered to educators throughout the region.

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: 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.

For more information on the project please contact Elise Krohn at elise@goodgrub.org.

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“We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature – for we will not fight to save what we do not love.”    -Stephen J. Gould

To learn more about the Tend, Gather, Grow Project Team, CLICK HERE.