UOG Extension teaches indoor gardening for behavioral wellness
With programs specific to gardening, family resiliency, and community development, the University of Guam Cooperative Extension & Outreach service is merging its expertise into a pilot initiative called Farmer Focus: Benefits & Basics of Indoor Planting. The initiative consists of workshops — initially for youth and senior citizens — with the goal of reducing stress and improving overall wellness.
The workshops were inspired by the findings of the agricultural producer stress surveys conducted through Cooperative Extension’s Farmer Focus Project. The survey revealed the stress levels and behavioral challenges for local farmers with the purpose of guiding the development of programs and services to assist them.
“But even outside the farming community, the risk of behavioral health challenges impacts us all,” said Tim de La Cruz, an extension agent with the Family & Consumer Sciences extension division who is leading the effort.
The positive effect of indoor plants on behavioral health is well-documented in research, he said, and gardening is a simple and accessible activity that anyone can utilize for their own benefit.
The week of March 13, extension personnel held the first Benefits & Basics of Indoor Planting Workshop as a week-long after-school program for middle school students at Guåhan Charter Academy.
“The workshop was intended to reinforce gardening as a prosocial activity, potentially serving as a protective factor against substance use and other behavioral health issues,” de La Cruz said.
The workshop included lessons on plants’ benefits for human health, scientific lessons about different plants’ genus and species, and hands-on experience planting their own succulents to take home and care for. At the end of the workshop, each student gave a presentation on a specific plant, sharing fun facts and drawings of their discoveries.
“I learned a lot,” said 7th grade student William Salas. “I learned how to take care of my own plants. I also learned about different varieties of indoor plants I didn’t know about.”
Liam Nanguata, also in 7th grade, said the experience has provided her joy and something to look forward to outside of school.
“I didn’t really know much about plants before, but now I do, and I love plants,” she said.
With the pilot workshops, the extension team hopes to gauge the community's interest in learning about the health benefits of indoor gardening and then work toward securing funding for a more permanent program.
Facilitating the workshop from UOG Cooperative Extension & Outreach were Phoebe Wall, a horticultural expert; Elvira Gisog and Grace Anne, who work under the Farmer Focus Project and are certified in Mental Health First Aid through the National Council of Mental Wellbeing; and Tim de La Cruz, who holds a doctorate in human services.
To inquire about the Farmer Focus: Benefits & Basics of Indoor Planting Workshops, email email@example.com or call (671) 735-2060.