OMA Center for Mind, Body, and Spirit (OMA) is committed to providing accessible, comprehensive health and wellness resources from a holistic standpoint to those seeking alternatives to conventional medical and therapeutic treatments. Art in the Garden (AITG), OMA’s youth and family program, focuses on addressing the impacts of early childhood adversity and trauma on health and learning through programming in the arts and ecology.
AITG offers an arts and ecology summer camp and year-round arts programming for youth and families. AITG engages a variety of modules that support youth in holding themselves and others in compassion and helping them to grow in connectedness to themselves, each other, and the earth. AITG supports youth remembering—in deep and lasting ways—the interconnectedness of all living beings, that we are all whole and all belong. To support youth in this journey, AITG’s programs address the impacts of adversity and trauma on health and learning through intentionally anti-racist, liberatory pedagogy, and by centering Black, Indigenous, People of Color, GLBTQIA folks, and other intersectional communities.
Addressing the Impact of Adversity and Trauma on Health and Learning
AITG is a building community that embraces their intersectionality, welcoming the whole of each person and valuing interconnection with the goal of addressing trauma and adversity. An extremely high number of children in the 21st-century experience trauma; on average, 13 out of every 30 children have toxic stress from three or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) (Washington State Family Policy Council).
In order to create a safe and supportive environment, AITC teachers, staff, collaborators, and teen counselors are trained in a trauma-informed approach, which includes a deep dive into the concept of racism—historically, socially, and personally. AITG’s experienced educators and licensed therapists developed a trauma-informed core curriculum. This curriculum engages youth in project-based arts and ecological exploration with a focus on mindfulness and emotional well-being. AITG programming and community partnerships also stem from the interests of the youth and families they serve. All community partners introduce activities that empower youth and build confidence, giving youth opportunities to experience themselves as agents of positive change.
All AITG activities are designed to support each youth’s ability to thrive and live their fullest expressions of themselves.
Using an ecological systems approach and honoring indigenous knowledge, youth explore how their physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being is intimately connected with their environment. Youth have opportunities to act as creators and agents of ecological healing in areas about which they are most passionate, including approaches to gardening/agriculture as a way of undoing harm that has led to climate change, addressing environmental racism, and engaging local solutions-based approaches to healing food apartheid. Youth are empowered by growing their own food, planting trees to draw down carbon and improve air quality, and caring for the environment using a holistic approach.
Empowering Youth to Create Systems Powered by Love and Justice
Art in the Garden fosters civic engagement with youth counselors, training teens in restorative justice practices, trauma-informed approaches, and ecological literacy to empower them to create systems powered by love and justice. AITG does this in collaboration with Youth Enrichment Services (YES) and SOAR Youth Empowerment Program. YES helps young people realize their goals and dreams and has committed to a mission focused on empowerment, experiential opportunities, academic enrichment, and summer employment. SOAR provides workshops using the Youth MAX Plus leadership curriculum to inspire and equip young people to value themselves and others.