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!"
I 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
Roots 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.
Activities 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
© 2000 by Individual Authors