Webinar Series:
Culturally Inclusive Teaching in the Garden

About the Webinar Series

By their nature, gardens embody diversity. Garden education is increasingly recognized as an interdisciplinary approach that integrates academic goals, health and wellness, place-based education, and community connections and relationships. However, discussion of culture is often missing in garden-based education. To validate and celebrate the interests and experiences of our students, we will delve deep into the significance of culture as it relates to food and gardens and also as it relates to the diverse populations with whom we work.

Join us as we explore ways to celebrate and center culture through garden-based learning.

This series is made possible by a grant from the Clif Family Foundation and contributions from folks like you.

Teens in the garden, wearing masks and posing near plants

Part 1: Principles of Culturally-Responsive Garden Education: Honoring Diversity Inclusion

By their nature, gardens embody diversity. Garden education is increasingly recognized as an interdisciplinary approach that integrates academic goals, health and wellness, place-based education, and community connections and relationships. However, discussion of culture is often missing in garden-based education. To share and validate the interests of our culturally diverse students, we will delve deep into the significance of culture as it relates to food and gardens and also as it relates to the diverse populations with whom we work. Through student voices and examples, Dilafruz Williams and Sheila Williams Ridge will share the principles of culturally responsive garden education that honors diversity and inclusion.

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Dilafruz Williams, PhD.

Born in Mumbai, India, Dr. Williams, is Professor Emerita of Leadership for Sustainability at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon and supports educational gardens across the country. With dozens of partners, she has designed, co-founded, and supported several cutting-edge initiatives.

A prolific scholar, Dr. Williams has authored over 70 chapters, journal articles, and curriculum resource guides and has given close to 200 invited lectures, symposia, and conference papers. Her research has focused extensively on garden-based education and environmental education. Her co-authored book, Learning Gardens and Sustainability Education: Bringing Life to Schools and Schools to Life (Routledge, 2012), presents a practical model of student engagement with gardens that serve as milieus for learning.

Recipient of several awards, Dr. Williams has given workshops and keynote addresses in Australia, Austria, Canada, India, Nepal, New Zealand, Seoul-Korea, South Africa, and the United States. She was elected city-wide to the Portland School Board, 2003-2011. She has graduate degrees from Bombay, Syracuse, and Harvard Universities in the sciences, public administration, and education. She is passionate about gardens and their life-sustaining offerings.

Dr. Sheila Williams Ridge

Dr. Sheila Williams Ridge is Director of the Child Development Laboratory School at the University of Minnesota. She holds a master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Concordia University and a bachelor's degree in Biology from University of Minnesota, Morris, as well as experience as a business manager and preschool teacher/naturalist. Dr. Williams Ridge is a facilitator for the NAEYC Young Children and Nature Interest Forum, on the Voices and Choices coalition, a board member for the Minneapolis Nature Preschool, a board member for Monarch Joint Venture, a board member for Dodge Nature Center, a school board member for Saint Paul City Schools, and a member of the Natural Start Alliance Leadership Team. She is co-author of the book, Nature-Based Learning for Young Children: Anytime, Anywhere, on Any Budget, published by Redleaf Press, and is passionate about encouraging nature-based play and the lasting developmental benefits of a relationship between children and nature.


Dilafruz Williams, PhD:

Dr. Sheila Williams Ridge:

Part 2: Honoring Native American, Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Culture in Youth Gardens

Educators Judy BlueHorse Skelton, Meda DeWitt, TH,  Iwikauikaua Joaquin and Alexis Kageyama share their work and methods for celebrating and centering Native American, Hawaiian, and Alaska Native culture in youth gardens.

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Judy BlueHorse Skelton (Nez Perce/Cherokee) is Assistant Professor in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program at Portland State University, teaching Indigenous Ecological Healing Practices, Contemporary Issues in Indian Country, Indigenous Women Leadership, Indigenous Gardens and Food Justice, and Indigenous Architecture and Design. She's worked with federal, state, and local Native organizations and tribes throughout the Northwest for more than 25 years, conducting cultural activities and research focusing on traditional and contemporary uses of native plants for food, medicine, ceremony, and healthy lifeways. In 2017 she received the PSU President's Diversity Award and in 2014, the Oregon Indian Education Association's award for Outstanding Indian Educator. In addition to her latest works listed below, Judy is the author of six collections of essays for teachers, including Native America: A Sustainable Culture (1999), and Lewis & Clark Through Native American Eyes (2003).
Collaborative work includes the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and the Native American Rehabilitation Assn. (NARA), the Many Nations Academy at Native American Youth and Family Services (NAYA), and other Native organizations in the Northwest. Judy serves on the Center for Tribal Nations Advisory Council to OMSI, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC). Judy serves on the boards of The Nature Conservancy and The Urban Greenspaces Institute. She has served as co-Chair on the Native American Community Advisory Council (NACAC) since its formation in 2011, partnering with Portland Parks, Metro, Bureau of Environmental Services, and US Fish and Wildlife Service, integrating Indigenous land practices with Indigenous traditional ecological and cultural knowledge (ITECK) to address Food Sovereignty/Justice and reclaim the urban forest for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Meda Dewitt, TH is a Lingít traditional healer, certified massage therapist, ethno-herbalist, educator, and virtual and in-person events coordinator. DeWitt has associates degrees in science and human services; a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies: women’s rites of passage; a master’s degree of arts in Alaska Native traditional healing from the Alaska Pacific University; and is currently in an Indigenous studies doctoral program at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, New Zealand. Meda focuses on a multi-faceted approach to achieving holistic broad spectrum movement building. Meda’s work revolves around the personal credo “Leave a world that can support life and a culture worth living for.” Her work experience draws from her training as an Alaska Native traditional healer and Healthy Native Communities capacity building facilitator. Meda’s Tlingit names are Tśa Tsée Náakw and Khaat kła.at, adopted Iñupiaq name is Tigigalook, and adopted Cree name is Boss Eagle Spirit Woman “Boss.” Her clan is Naanyaa.aayí and she is a child of the Kaach.aadi. Her family comes from Shtuxéen kwaan (now referred to as Wrangell, AK.) Meda’s lineage also comes from Oregon, Washington, and the BC/Yukon Territories. Currently she lives on Dena’ina lands in Anchorage, Alaska with her fiancé James “Chris” Paoli and their eight children.
Iwikauikaua Joaquin is an ʻĀina and Sustainability Kumu at Kamehameha Schools Maui. He is a Maui Native Hawaiian farmer, gatherer and forager of the land and sea, a traditional Hawaiian architect, stone mason, and Hawaiian culture-based environmental educator.
Kumu Alexis Kageyama grew up in California and is a graduate of University of California, Santa Cruz. Over the years she has worked at many different school-year programs and summer camps covering a wide range of topics such as science-based garden education, STEM innovation, self-directed learning, and nature connectedness. Before she came to Kamehameha Schools, Alexis worked as a naturalist teacher at an outdoor school in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and a school garden coordinator with the nonprofit Grow Some Good, where she spent two years developing and implementing garden education programs at Kamaliʻi Elementary School and Lokelani Intermediate School in Kīhei. In 2019 Alexis came to Kamehameha Schools Maui as an ʻāina (land/earth) and sustainability engagement kumu (teacher), working to strengthen ʻāina-based programming across the K-12 campus and assisting in various sustainability initiatives. More recently, Alexis has moved into the classroom and is teaching K-3 science in a new pilot program which aims to blend ʻāina-based learning with standards-aligned science education. During her free time Alexis loves to create visual art and spend time outdoors camping and hiking.


Judy BlueHorse Skelton:

Meda DeWitt:

Iwikauikaua Joaquin and Alexis Kageyama:

Part 3: Celebrating African American and Black Culture in Youth Gardens

Educators Wanda Stewart and Reeba Daniel will share their work and methods for celebrating and centering African American and Black culture in youth gardens.

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Wanda Stewart is the Executive Director of Common Vision - an organization doing good at the nexus of education, food, and the environment. Common Vision’s work reflects gardens in schools, trees in ground in community, and food to families. Wanda's perspective and work center the needs of disenfranchised communities of color and school children. After many professional years as a school administrator, Wanda defines her roles now as farmer, community organizer, and tree-hugging enthusiast.

Reeba Daniel is a Black and queer farmer growing mixed vegetables and herbs on Kalapuya land also known as Aloha Oregon. Reeba currently serves as the Farmers Market Fund co-president/ DEIJ chair, Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network steering committee member, and school garden coordinator. They also serve their community by creating value-added products and in-person community wellness spaces.


Part 4: Fostering Hispanic, Latinx and Spanish Origin Culture in Youth Gardens

Educators Ceci Orozco and Ángeles Martínez of Growing Gardens in Oregon are joined by host Daniel Barrera Ortega for a bilingual webinar in English and Spanish.

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Ceci Orozco
Ceci is a lifelong learner, mother, mover, facilitator of embodied practices, and bilingual educator. Currently, she is studying for a master’s degree in Sustainability Education and Leadership at PSU. Ceci is from la Tierra del mariachi y el agave: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Her Mexican roots and family traditions have drawn her closer to connecting with nature’s abundance, beauty, and teachings. This has led her to share with students and her community earth-based practices and holistic education resources. After moving to the Pacific Northwest in 2015, Ceci received her certification as a yoga instructor, and years later, she completed a 300hr Ayurveda Clinical Foundations certification. She has taught yoga and meditation in Spanish to the Latino community in town and is excited to combine her passion for movement and mindfulness with garden-based education. When she’s not in the classroom or the garden or at a yoga studio teaching, Ceci enjoys exploring the great outdoors of the PNW, playing racquetball, traveling, and engaging in rituals of self-care.

Ángeles Martínez
Coming from Puebla Mexico, Ángeles' first language is Spanish but she has lived in the United States for the past 19 years. She loves children and being out in nature, admiring flowers, planting fruits and vegetables, and the like. Combining these two loves makes her an excellent community organizer in Portland's Powell Butte neighborhood. She loves helping others become more self-sufficient through gardening and appreciating nature.

Host: Daniel Barrera Ortega
Daniel is a garden educator in the DC Metro Area. Having graduated with a degree in Plant Genetics but realizing he could not tell you anything about growing food, he sought more hands-on experience by helping in a youth garden education program in Gainesville, Florida. This sent him down a rabbit hole, exploring the intersection of classroom education, cooking, and gardening. When not prepping for his next lesson, he can be found doing swing-outs in the ballroom, performing improv comedy, or baking at home. Daniel serves on the School Garden Support Organization’s governance board and has collaborated closely on the popular Teaching in Nature’s Classroom online course and curriculum.


Part 5: Nurturing Middle Eastern and North African Culture in Youth Gardens

Änna Ibrahim of Shalom Farms and educators Naomi Stein, Iesha Siler, and Levi Brewster will explore ways to nurture Middle Eastern and North African Culture in Youth Gardens.

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Änna Ibrahim serves as Executive Director for Shalom Farms in Richmond,VA. She is honored to be a part of the work of Shalom Farms and the broader Richmond food access community. Prior to her move to Virginia, Änna worked in progressive faith advocacy and direct service organizations in Washington, DC, where she designed new programs and facilitated key organizational processes, including embedding a racial equity lens into program development, strategic planning, and org-wide visioning. Änna holds a BA in Middle Eastern Studies from Hamline University and a MBA in Design Strategy from the California College of the Arts. As a descendant of farmers, she loves digging in the dirt. As a Palestinian, she loves shakshukah and shawarma in the majority of their interpretations. Outside of work, you can find her relishing the newfound joy of a porch sit with her husband in Brookland Park.

Naomi Stein is a culture keeper, researching, studying and teaching about Jewish Ethnobotany. She worked for the Lawrence Hall of Science, U.C. Berkeley’s public science center, for close to two decades, leading environmental education, theatre and science programming, funded by the National Science Foundation, the State of California and the National Institute of Health (among scores of others). Her work has been published by the University and WestEd. As a Backcountry Programs Director, she led over 1,000 youth through the Sierras and California coast. Naomi taught Biblical Ethnobotany at the Berkeley Jewish Community Center with Dr. Jonathan Siedel in the ‘90’s and is co-teaching Jewish Ethnobotany with him in 2023 through the Aquarian Minyan. You can also find her teaching this year at Urban Adamah and both of the Women’s Herbalist Symposium sessions. She has led Havdalah hikes for Temple Sinai and Kehilla Synagogue as well as Native plant walks for public and strike schools, taught challah baking classes and organized a family friendly counter-protest to the Nazi’s Bay Area visit. In addition to teaching, Naomi is currently the balebusta for her family of four, maintaining health through eco-kashrut meals and medicines. If there are words in this bio you don’t recognize, but you are curious about, she warmly welcomes you to her classes. You are welcome to reach out to her directly at [email protected].

Iesha Siler is a public health advocate, currently pursuing a Doctorate in Public Health at Loma Linda University. She holds a B.S. in Public Policy, Planning and Development from USC and a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University. During her tenure at the LA Food Policy Council, Iesha led various initiatives, including establishing universal CalFresh/EBT access at farmers' markets and implementing Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones in LA City and LA County. Iesha actively contributes to her community through her service on the New Horizon Pasadena School Peace Garden Committee, the City of Pasadena Environmental Advisory Commission, Arlington Garden Board of Directors, and Food Forward’s Advisory Council. She resides in her hometown, Pasadena, with her husband and three children.

Levi Brewster is the Learning Naturalist at New Horizon School in Pasadena, CA. Levi has been working in community to restore and heal land relationships in Southern California for over 20 years. They work with schools, libraries and other public organizations as an educator, gardener, and designer. Levi has learned from local indigenous communities, trained with Life Lab and Occidental Arts + Ecology Center in garden education, studied with The Permaculture Academy and is a certified CA Naturalist. Their work is centered in supporting healthy relationships among people and the living earth.


Part 6: Featuring Asian and Asian American Culture in Youth Gardens

Educators Cat Ayala and Carla Manuel of Growing Gardens Portland explore ways to feature Asian and Asian American culture in youth gardens.

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Cat Ayala (she/her) is a second-generation Vietnamese American. Growing up, she spent a lot of time gardening and cooking with her mother. Her childhood encouraged her to study environmental science and work in education and outreach. She enjoyed serving in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps and is looking forward to building relationships with the community. In her free time, Cat enjoys cooking new recipes, hiking with her husband and pup, traveling to new places, and taking photos!

Carla Manuel (she/her) is in her second year with FoodCorps as the Growing Gardens Service Member at Scott Elementary in Portland. With a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and management in hand, her career evolved from corporate settings to leading K-12 students in culinary and garden lessons. She has over three decades of industry experience that ranges from school and community settings to luxury hotel properties. She has managed kitchens for corporations, opened and managed kitchens for small business startups, led local non-profit events, and instructed intercity youth. She is excited to contribute to supporting rising youth leaders in culinary, gardening, and building community strength. Striving for nourishment, equity, and racial & social justice are intrinsic values for her. Working with the FoodCorps and Youth Grow familia dedicated to the same aspirations is super exciting!


Part 6: Featuring Asian and Asian American Culture in Youth Gardens

Part 5: Nurturing Middle Eastern and North African Culture in Youth Gardens

Part 4: Fostering Hispanic, Latinx, and Spanish Origin Culture in Youth Gardens

Part 3: Celebrating African American and Black Culture in Youth Gardens

Part 2: Honoring Native American, Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Culture in Youth Gardens

Part 1: Principles of Culturally-Responsive Garden Education

Past webinars

Looking for past webinar offerings? You can find them all on our Crowdcast page!