Submitted by: David Category: Engaging in Our Community
The Big Idea
Amir (Hebrew for the top of the tree) is a nonprofit organization committed to the intellectual, emotional, and social development of all youth. Through experiential environmental education, specifically gardening, Amir provides children with an enlightened perspective on their relationship with others and their interaction with nature.
The Amir Project can be implemented at all educational institutions, including but not limited to summer camps, private and public schools, and community centers. Using the educational versatility of gardening, Amir educates children from different backgrounds and tailors its curriculum to match the goals of each community that it serves. In order to reach as many children as possible, Amir partners with already existent educational centers to run its programs. Spanning the wide spectrum of educational approaches, Amir's program utilizes visual, cognitive, and kinesthetic forms of learning. As a result, its educational model is adaptable to almost any community.
Embarking from a philosophy that all people must share the Earth to ensure our community's vitality and health, Amir's comprehensive gardening program teaches children about issues of social justice such as cooperation, sharing limited resources, and the interrelatedness of all beings. Central to Amir's program is facilitating the space in which children design, built, and plant gardens together. Through active learning and imparting socially conscious educational messages to youth, Amir's program develops leadership and dialogue skills in youth. At its core, Amir's educational goal is to cultivate a generation of leaders and ambassadors for an environmentally conscious and socially just future.
The Amir Project for each school, camp, and community center provides:
Sustainable organic gardens that grow a wide variety of vegetables and plants, ranging from tomatoes to sunflower seeds
Educational programming in, and around, these gardens that are age appropriate
Food that participants can eat
A participant-led food donation
A composting program
Surveys of participants before and after to evaluate the educational success of the program
Through its program, Amir hopes to encourage children and their respective families to live environmentally conscious lives, recognize local and global poverty, and become ambassadors for cooperation and change in their local communities. Amir holds that children, by understanding their symbiotic relationship with the Earth, will lead a social movement geared toward a more just world. Amir calls on the Jewish community to champion this philosophy of social and environmental consciousness. Through mobilizing Jewish communities across the world Amir can be light unto others about sustainable living, eradicating hunger, and taking care of our Earth for each other.
Greater Los Angeles boasts an incredibly large Jewish community, one that is diverse and always growing in number and stature. The American Jewish community needs to continue to cultivate these regions of prosperous Judaic atmospheres, and The Amir Project is committed to accomplishing this task by implementing our already-proven programming within the area. Amir believes that all Jews have an undeniable devotion to the Earth, dictated by our religious tenets and fortified even further by our passion for Tikkun Olam. It is the responsibility of the Jewish community to explore this devotion as each generation makes its mark around the world.
Los Angeles is an excellent location for the implementation of Amir's programs for three reasons. First, Los Angeles has a vibrant Jewish community that can engage in the Jewish ethics perpetuated by Amir. Second, it is a multi-ethnic community that Amir can bring together through its gardening program. Third, its climate is hospitable for year-round outdoor gardening.
Amir is cognizant of the importance of establishing and nurturing relationships with religious communities in the area. Specifically, Amir seeks to work together with the Greater Los Angeles Muslim community. We hope that this cooperative relationship centered on youth gardening will be one that others can look to as an example of co-existence. Amir is ultimately interested in providing a similar, parallel model of cooperation in Israel. Environmentalism as a conduit to peace can work on both local and global levels. It is thus important that Amir creates a working model of a cooperative relationship among the Jewish and Muslim community in Los Angeles.
By bringing The Amir Project to the Greater Los Angeles Jewish Community, we will enable individuals young and old, poor and wealthy alike to combat issues such as hunger, poverty, and social justice. Amir's gardening program can be designed for disparate groups we have an adaptable curriculum centered on an overriding philosophy: despite our differences, the Earth does not discriminate. The Amir Project looks forward to bringing our services to the Los Angeles, and working with the area's already vibrant Jewish community toward creating a new generation of socially conscious, ethically sound, and environmentally friendly citizens.
This Is A Great Idea Because
While there are other organizations that engage various communities in environmental education and gardening programs, Amir distinguishes itself and builds a competitive advantage in its scope and reach. Amir's program is scalable and adaptable to all communities. While some organizations focus on schools or summer camps, Amir does not limit itself by the educational institution or community it serves.
Amir recognizes that experiential environmental education can take many forms. As a result, Amir has chosen three distinct initiatives: public and private school education, summer camps, and interfaith cooperation.
Public and Private School Initiative: Amir recognizes that American children have increasingly less access to proper environmental education and information regarding healthy eating. Consequently, obesity has become an intractable issue in America; since 1980 obesity in children aged 6-11 has increased from 6.5% to 19.6%. The Center for Disease Control stated that educational initiatives encouraging healthy choices in nutrition will prove most effective in combating obesity. In addition, many children learn most effectively through experiential learning practices. According to organizational psychologist David Kolb, learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Through experiential learning, Kolb argues, information resonates with students and applies to their lives outside of the classroom. Amir therefore hopes to integrate into Los Angeles schools and teach about math, science, and healthy living through its gardening program.
Summer Camp Initiative: In a study conducted by the American Camping Association (ACA), 70% camp directors said their mission reflects some aspects of nature. In addition, most camp directors believe that connecting children and nature requires purposeful programming. There are 2,500 camps that belong to the ACA, and the ACA serves 6.9 million campers annually. Still, only 22% of summer camps have environmental education programming. According to the ACA survey, 76% of these directors hope to connect youth to nature through environmental programming. Amir hopes to fill this need in the Los Angeles community.
Interfaith Cooperation: How the American Jewish and Muslim communities view each other and interact is important for the future peace and security of the Middle East. Although they live in America, these communities dictate social and political attitudes concerning the region. Amir holds that distrust between these two communities continues to perpetuate an intractable conflict, even from afar. According to Dr. Ron Pundak of the Peres Peace Center, the key to a peaceful future in the Middle East involves facilitating partnerships between Jewish and Muslim youth; developing empathy and respect in these children will ultimately facilitate reconciliation in Israel.
Amir maintains that programming in these three areas will help educate and reach as many children as possible. In addition, Amir's program enables leadership roles among the farmers who serve as educators. Amir enables youth aged 18-22 to act as role models for the children that they educate. In doing so, Amir can provide educational experiences for youth in kindergarten through college. As a result, Amir will perpetuate a community and generation of farmers and citizens that will be ambassadors for solving social inequities.