“Invasive species are a plant that is not from here. It comes from another place and has no natural predators or competition so it grows out of control.” Using sign language to six Metro Deaf students I was met with puzzled looks! Using her hands to interpret our conversation about invasive plants, the Metro Deaf intervener illustrated how the “bad” plant grew and grew until it crowded out the “good” plant. The good plant would grow better if the students picked the bad plant and made space for the good plant. Their eyes lit up-clearly they were undertaking important work.
The seven students in Metro Deaf’s Transition Program, all with varying degrees of hearing loss, are in the middle of a three part volunteer experience at Urban Roots. These students come to us after one to three years of job training made possible by Career Ventures Inc. The students also have experiences like bike repair at Cycles for Change, auto mechanics at Vehi Tech, woodworking with their Deaf Craft business, canoe repair at Wilderness Inquiry, and customer service at Lowe’s.
Our first April volunteer day began with snow and ended with sleet, but students came prepared and dressed for the weather. Work began in one of the produce gardens, pulling relentless quack grass. Next the students ventured into Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary with our Conservation Program Manger to get the big view on the invasive species introduced earlier in the day, also learning a bit of history of the park.
Happy to return to the warmth of Urban Roots kitchen, students prepared a warm winter root vegetable and farro salad from Lenny Russo’s Heartland Cookbook. Some students learned the difference between “dicing” and “chopping,” while the more experienced students demonstrated their technique and helped first time choppers safely hone their skills. Each student seemed to be so aware of the group, and cared just as much that their friends experienced and understood as they did.
Merely one week later, Metro Deaf returned under the hot sun and nearly 80 degree temps. They worked up a sweat pulling out the remainder of the quack grass and hauling heavy wheelbarrows of compost to spread in the Urban Roots garden. Students finished the day planting peas in hopes of