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Student Farida Aziz worked with the New Beginnings Garden program in Wilmington, Delaware, teaching children about gardening, health and nutrition.
note: Research, community service, internships and study abroad
typically make summers memorable for many University of Delaware
students. While the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has sidetracked some
of these activities, UD students are continuing with hundreds of
remarkable projects remotely. Check out our series of profiles and
stories, which also are being highlighted on the Summer Spotlight website.
Farida Aziz is a biological science major at UD. She is from Bear, Delaware, and expects to graduate in May 2022.
Q: What are you studying, where and with whom?
Aziz: I am working with the New Beginnings Garden program at
the YWCA of Delaware, under the guidance of David Teague, professor of
literature at the University of Delaware Associate in Arts Program
in Wilmington. New Beginnings is a trauma-informed horticulture and
nutritional education program that serves homeless families and works to
eliminate racism and empower women to promote peace and justice for
all. My planned role there was to take proper care of the garden and to
connect the kids to the garden for them to not only focus on the fun
parts of gardening but to learn lessons from it, both directly and
indirectly, related to health.
Q: What inspired this project?
Aziz: I am very passionate about my health, and I want the
children at YWCA to know the importance of being healthy and strong. The
children I am working with are between 4 and 10 years old.
Q: What is it about this topic that interests you?
Aziz: One thing about this topic that interests me is that I
am able to engage the kids in the garden. It is exciting for them to
have a feeling of what it is like to be in the presence of nature, even
if that presence is experienced through a virtual story time or craft
time about gardens. To me, gardening acts as therapy when I am stressed
or sad. The satisfaction from gardening can cheer you up when you feel
discouraged, and that's why I wanted to pass this experience along.
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Q: How has COVID-19 shaped your plans for this project? Is flexibility something that comes easily for you?
Aziz: My original plan before COVID-19 was to have access to
the garden and plant different kinds of vegetables and fruits for the
children, as well as have story time with the children.
I wanted to use
that opportunity to teach them about some scientific concepts while
planting and tending the garden, such as why plants need sun, how plants
drink water and other things, such as soil composition and more. I
thought I could also use that opportunity to teach them math by
measuring how much plants are growing from week to week or even counting
the flowers on each plant.
Due to COVID-19, my research and plans were delayed because of the
impossibility of having access to the garden and connecting with the
kids in person. However, the pandemic shaped my plans for this project
in many ways. For instance, it gave me the opportunity to advance my
research skills and, since I am not able to go to the garden, I am now
working on doing a virtual story time for the kids. I am looking at
stories about gardening and eating enough veggies, and I will put them
together for the kids into story time programming at the YWCA.
Flexibility is not a problem for me because I love expanding my
knowledge and having new experiences.
Q: What are the possible real-world applications for your study?
Aziz: Gardens are not just aesthetically pleasing; they are
also a building block of a healthy space. We may not think of gardening
as an exercise, but all the lifting and shoveling counts. Being outside
in the fresh air and sunshine is definitely a way to boost your mood and
de-stress, too. And gardening has been shown to be helpful in reducing
the risk of depression.
Q: How would you explain your work to a fifth grader or someones grandparent?
Aziz: I would explain my work to a fifth grader by telling
them the importance of gardening and how it encourages healthy eating
and, of course, creativity. I think gardening is important because it is
good for our mind and body. Through color and textures, gardening can
evoke happiness and health.
Q: What advice would you give younger kids (middle school or high school) with similar interests?
Aziz: Plants are like responsibilities: you have to care for them, and they require a lot of attention.
Q: Have the changes required by the pandemic changed your perspective on anything?
Aziz: Since the pandemic, I have been very frustrated but calm
at the same time. The fact that I am not allowed in the garden to do
what I intended is kind of frustrating, but I have been very patient
with the process. I have been volunteering at the Food Bank of Delaware
to gain more knowledge about gardening and the importance of keeping
Article by Karen B. Roberts
Published Aug. 19, 2020