June 5, 2014

Playing the dirt, connecting with the land

By Jerry W. Kram

Kids love to get dirty.

So when the New Town Head Start Program has a chance to teach small children lessons about the land, plants, and their culture, letting them get dirty in a garden seems like a no-brainer. That’s why at last week’s Head Start graduation ceremony, every child also planted a Mandan corn seedling in the center’s garden on Ninth Street in New Town.

The Head Start Program received a grant from the NDSU Fort Berthold Extension Service to purchase eight raised bed gardens to teach children about where their food comes from and to encourage a healthy diet.

According to Extension Agent Elise Regan, each of the four Head Start classes, Tiny Tots, Four Feathers, Black Lodge and Little Lodge, have two of the raised beds where they had their choice to plant a butterfly garden, pizza garden, Native American garden or vegetable garden. Two beds were also donated to the Head Start program in Mandaree. Regan said native elder Mike Cross was part of the stimulus of the gardening project.

"Mike is interested in working with the young kids to promote some of the traditional knowledge and interest in gardening," Regan said. "He was the one who proposed doing gardens at the head start."

Cross also helped create a corn patch alongside the raised bed gardens where the young people could plant the native corn seedlings.

"Our garden looks nice," Cross said. "There are choices you make in educating children and so many opportunities here on Fort Berthold, I always thought Head Start was the perfect place to do this. At three or four years old, those memories last all your life and you reflect on those when you get older. A lot of us like to remember our earliest recollections. For a lot of us, that is being out working in the garden."

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