Friday, September 30, 2011

Learning Responsibility through Gardening

The S.T.A.R. Program in Flagstaff doesn’t shy away from unique and creative ways to teach life skills to the youth in their program. The S.T.A.R. Program, which is an acronym for Skills, Training and Respite, is designed to help youth who have behavioral health issues. The program offers a variety of services to reduce caregiver stress and increase the skill base of youth enrolled in the program.

Russ Chesson, the program supervisor, learned gardening skills in his youth and saw potential in using a gardening program to teach life skills to the youth. Russ felt that a gardening curriculum would be an excellent platform to teach the importance of a healthy diet, teach responsibility through daily care and watering, and teach environmental responsibility through recycling and composting.

Russ presented the idea to his team and the staff jumped on board. The staff made sure all the kids had a role to play in the project. The older kids in the program were responsible for the building of the gardening boxes and younger kids were tasked with the watering and maintenance of the plants. Outside groups, including the Sustainability Cooperative, have come in to teach various topics, such as composting. The youth built a compost bin and have been able to watch the transition of the compost materials.

“Many of the youth don’t really get outside their neighborhood or ever learn where food comes from or how it is produced,” said Russ. “We wanted to give them something that they wanted to take care of and they have definitely done so.”

The best part for the youth is seeing the results of their hard work. The youth made a homemade pizza recently and were able to use pizza ingredients from their very own garden! They also plan to make their own salsa as a gift for one of their sponsors, Vora Financial, who helped provide funding for them to purchase supplies.

S.T.A.R. Programs exist throughout the Northern and Western Regions of Arizona including: Mohave, Yavapai, Coconino, Navajo & Apache Counties. To learn more about the S.T.A.R. Program, please visit and click on “Intervention Programs.” If you’d like to help support the needs of the youth program, please contact Russ at 928.527.1000 ext.106.

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