ALASKA – In 2017, the USDA Forest Service’s Region 10 Wooch.een Committee, part of the Civil Rights Action Group, launched an effort to spread kindness in the community of Juneau, Alaska. During the week of Earth Day, the committee and its volunteers, worked with kindergarten and preschool aged youth to grow plant starts. The plants were nurtured by the youth in classrooms, and when ready, were given out in random acts of kindness to neighbors, friends, and family.
It was a meaningful effort where Forest Service staff had the opportunity to speak with youth about who we are as an agency, why we care about sustainability and “being kind” to our natural resources, and discussed the importance of inclusivity, diversity, and “being kind” to one another.
The effort was well received by the community and in 2018 the committee expanded its efforts to engage the entire Gastineau Elementary School and the Gold Creek Child Development Center, including 275 youth and 20 adults growing 500 plant starts. The expanded effort kicked off on April 19th in celebration of Earth Day and included a kindness art contest, a school-wide assembly with Smokey Bear who had the honor of announcing the winners, and 3 days’ worth of planting seeds and fabricating buttons featuring the winning art.
As the plants mature, the school is using the activity to teach components of science through the use of journaling and observation. When ready, the students will transplant their edible bright red flowers, called nasturtiums, into hanging baskets to be given out around the community in random acts of kindness.
“We are excited to see where the kindness baskets will end up and feel great about inspiring our youth to care for the planet and for one another,” said Bobbie Jo Skibo, Wooch.een chairperson.