Winters, CA

By Ann Baier

Roots and Wings. What images do those words conjure up in your imagination?

The first time I heard them in the same sentence, I was making strawberry jam for hostess gifts as I packed up my small pickup to drive across the country, visiting farms and educational projects, seeking wisdom. My friend exclaimed, "Ann, you want roots and wings!"

collecting eggsI always remembered that phrase along my journeys, and it seemed the appropriate name for the organization created to provide farm and garden-based educational programs with youth and their communities. Vision becomes reality, as Roots and Wings cultivates spaces where culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged young women learn by doing and grow through direct experience. With women as mentors and role models, farms, gardens and natural areas are active learning environments for young women. Here, real work experience enables them to gain practical skills, confidence and motivation to change their lives and become integral members of their communities.

carpenters at workRoots and Wings programs provide participants with a deep, experiential grasp of both connection and possibility. Roots provide anchorage, connect plants to the earth, and absorb water and nourishment. By working directly with plants, animals, soil and the earth, young women gain a sense of groundedness, solid relationships, belonging, and home--where you can be understood for who you are, make mistakes and learn from them, and still be loved and appreciated. We all need roots. We need a sense of connection and contribution to the communities of which we are a part. When you know who you are, you can spread your wings and fly. Roots and Wings programs provide a place where girls are not afraid to dream big. Participants see new opportunities, meet positive role models, explore new possibilities, and are encouraged to envision a positive future for themselves, their families, communities and the world. They then transform those hopes and dreams into achievable goals, with the encouragement and support they need to take the first step.

weaver and her scarfActivities include organic gardening, landscape and garden design, ecological restoration, carpentry and homebuilding, arts and agriculture. In addition, we address issues of trust, self-esteem, teamwork, communication, conflict resolution, self-expression, confidence and capacity. These are nurtured and reinforced through goal setting exercises, initiative, responsibility, and leadership skills. The daily practice of writing in journals, dialog and group discussions nurtures girls' abilities to express their thoughts and feelings, articulate ideas and communicate effectively.

© 2000 by Individual Authors
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