Painting, planting nurtures creativity of students at Cumberland Juvenile Detention Center

Author: Diana Kees

Children who are housed temporarily in North Carolina’s juvenile detention centers find they are provided the opportunity to experience growth in many ways: from social, to educational, to emotional. A newly developed program at the Cumberland Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Fayetteville allows them to nurture growth (of donated plants) while exploring their artistic creativity.

Plants in painted cansThrough hands-on activities, students at Cumberland JDC are learning the basics of horticulture as they ease back to health plants that were donated to the facility by Lowe’s Home Improvement. Working with plants that otherwise would have been discarded, the students also learn about weather, environment and nutrition; and in caring for the plants gain valuable skills such as responsibility, cooperation, patience, altruism and creativity. The children put their artistic skills into action when they are creating containers for the plants: large tin cans collected from the detention center cafeteria and from area restaurants. Students paint these cans, and their original artwork creates unique pots in which to place the plants, ready for donation to local human service facilities and/or community members.

Vegetables growingThe generosity of the donations of Lowe’s Home Improvement has also opened up the opportunity for the children to grow vegetables, including red and bell peppers, eggplant and squash. While some of these vegetables have been used in preparing the students’ meals, the center will donate most of the harvest to Fayetteville City Rescue Mission Inc., a nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to alleviate community hunger and homelessness.

Cumberland JDC staff report that this project’s gardening and artwork design/creation has been therapeutic for the center’s children. “We have noticed the calming effect and increased self-confidence working with the plants and creating the pots has had on the students,” said acting Human Service Coordinator Nicole Hawkins.

One juvenile, T.S., indicated that the project helped the anger fade away. “When I participated in painting the cans for the plants I felt good. While I was painting I was thinking of my family and when I was a kid how I use to plant tomatoes and other vegetables. This is what made me change my life around because for the first time I thought about how I was hurting them. So, painting and planting the flowers was not just fun but it was a life changer.”

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