Earlier this month, in partnership with the Pa‘ia Youth & Cultural Center (PYCC), The Merwin Conservancy began hosting a series of summer outdoor educational experiences with Maui youth who are part of the PYCC’s Malama Pono Project Venture program, a local affiliate of the nationally-recognized Project Venture via the National Indian Youth Leadership Project (NIYLP). This program focuses on engaging native young people in “adventure-based learning and service to family, community and nature”
Pa’ia Youth & Cultural Center is a certified Project Venture adoption site, and has been personally endorsed by NIYLP founder McClellan Hall. While Project Venture was created for Native American communities, the model has been adopted by a variety of cultural groups from various rural and urban backgrounds.
In a series of three visits to The Merwin Conservancy, PYCC’s participants are engaging with local and national history through learning W.S. Merwin’s story, they are gaining exposure to place-based poetry and tropical biodiversity, seeing first-hand the positive impact that one person can have on a landscape, and are doing hands-on projects, including spending several hours among the palms creating original artworks.
“My favorite part of this program is the amount of curiosity it evokes in the kids, ” said Sara Tekula, Director of Communications and Outreach for The Merwin Conservancy. “I think they all walk away with a sense of empowerment and creative inspiration, a sense of peace from being in nature, and a desire to see how – in their own unique ways – they can do something like what Merwin has done.”
The PYCC partnership continues through the summer and will culminate in a “give back” visit, where the students will assist the Conservancy’s head gardener.