For a course project, a fellow graduate student, Jenee Duncan, and I decided to put our expertise, interests, and the Athens community’s needs front and center as we developed an outreach project.
This amalgamation of creativity, thoughtfulness and hard work became Project LEAF: Learning through the Environment, Art, and Food.
Project LEAF is an outreach program developed to serve multicultural children and teens in Georgia. Through this developmentally appropriate program, children learn how to balance their family heritage with their development in the rural southeastern U.S. by learning about their environment and hygiene, foods and nutrition and art and identity.
Project LEAF is purposefully flexible in nature in order to best meet the needs of one’s local community.
In Athens, we found a home for LEAF with our community partner, Casa de Amistad, a local nonprofit group serving the local Hispanic community.
Casa de Amistad advocates for Hispanic individuals and families, as well as assists with basic needs such as legal council, ESOL classes, childcare, and food distribution.
My colleagues and I have collaborated with Casa de Amistad to implement Project LEAF with children on March 17, 19, 24, and 26 from 6-8 p.m.
Each day, LEAF facilitators will work with young, Hispanic children (ages 4-12) to teach lessons on one of four overarching topics: Foods and Nutrition; Environment and Hygiene; Art and Identity; and Self-Regulation.
Culturally sensitive communication and activities will be implemented throughout each session by addressing a broad range of relevant topics (for example: hygiene, animal safety, healthy vs. non-healthy foods, body image, family and coping/self-regulation skills).
Facilitators will engage children in purposeful discussions about their identities within the context of their environment and family.
During the first session focused on foods and nutrition, children will learn about what it means to be healthy.
Session two will teach children how to care for their habitat and be conscious of their place within the larger environment.
In the third session, children will create collage artwork reflecting what they have learned and their identities.
Finally, during session four, facilitators will help children consider difficult scenarios when they may need to apply what they have learned and will use skits or songs to present different scenarios with the children; parents will be invited to the final session to see what their children have learned during Project LEAF.
This research-based program encourages children to be proud of their heritage, while also learning to thrive here in Georgia. We will evaluate this program to enhance its impact for future implantation.
After completing the sessions, parents of participating children and staff will be invited to speak to researchers to aid in a program evaluation of Project LEAF.
Our hope is that Project LEAF will have a positive influence on the Athens community by encouraging children, families, facilitators and volunteers to embrace cultural diversity in their everyday lives through food choices, interaction with their environment and self-identity.
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