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‘Growing something is really profound’: Deschutes County creates Peace Garden for juvenile detention center

(Update: adding video, comment from teacher of Juvenile Detention Center)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County and the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council Skills Lab are sharing the wonder and life lessons that gardening brings with youth residing at the county's Juvenile Community Justice Facility.

The Deschutes Peace Garden is a new classroom-garden that was partially funded by grants. Some community partners include Wilco, Fairlife, the Greater Bend Rotary, The Environmental Center and the Oregon Department of Education.

Nancy Gilbertson, a teacher at the detention center, said, "The idea with the Peace Garden is that it's a place for the youth who are in the juvenile facility to access the outdoors and a variety of different curricula: math, language, arts, science, social studies. And the garden is a great conduit for that."

Gilbertson, who works with 12- to 17-year-olds, says she came up with the Peace Garden as a way for the youth to be outdoors and still maintain a learning environment

“There's lots of research around the importance of just literally getting your hands in the dirt and working with the earth," Gilbertson said Friday. "So I want them to benefit from that experience as well.”

The formerly vacant space now features raised beds where the youth can learn valuable skills and grow some of their own food, as well.

The space has eight gardening beds and a pergola where benches will be installed for outdoor classes. There's also a composting station that'll be moved outdoors, once the irrigation system is finished.

Gilbertson plans to have the students grow their food and use the waste to create nutrient-rich soil .

“if there is surplus, we'll look at donating that maybe to the other facilities in the area, or maybe shelters," she said.

Even though the garden isn't 100% complete, students have already had the opportunity to test their growing skills in the classroom. These plants will all be put in the garden, along with an array of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

"With the garden inside, you know, they're like, 'Hey, look at this! This grew!' And they start talking to each other, and sometimes they'll be in the garden space inside and start talking about stories about how they grew up."

Gardening already has the teens engaging and socializing, an opportunity some didn't have prior to detention.  

Detention facility manager Rob Gilman said, "Any time we can create those moments where they can interact socially and see positive outcomes out of it, enhances and increases there chances of success when they get out."

Gilman, who did not wish to be on camera, said he sees the garden as a way to develop vocational skills to serve them in the future -- a goal for growth shared by Gilbertson.

Gilbertson said, "Taking care of something, growing something is really profound for a lot of people, having something to care for. And I mean, I think it instills a lot of pride in the students who work in the garden and yeah, just learning to be self-sufficient."

Gilbertson tells NewsChannel 21 she wants the students to develop competence and confidence in gardening. She hopes they'll use the mindset with other interests, when they leave the facility. 

Here's a county-produced video on the Peace Garden project:

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Matthew Draxton

Matthew Draxton is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Matthew here.


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