“A century ago, John Dewey proposed educating children through a curriculum rich in real-life problem-solving experiences. While many traditional schools have been slow to adopt such methods, experiential learning is making a significant impact in alternative education, youth development, and treatment settings. Challenge and adventure activities create powerful learning environments which fully engage youth and foster the development of courage, resilience, and responsibility.” (Brendtro & Strother, 2007, p. 2) In 1875,
Kenny’s great-grandfather Jacob Turck, threw an axe into the woods to decide where to homestead and build the family farm and they have been there ever since. It is this farm which serves as the primary experiential site for DIRT GROUP and is located in the historically rich Central Minnesota Township of Forest City. Through the implementation of DIRT GROUP we provide a model of caring for young people which fosters inclusion, social competency, self-regulation skills, pride, ownership, and a sense of purpose. In utilizing creative, intentional methods/principles in gardening and farming, participants are engaged in rich experiential learning opportunities which support them as they learn, practice, and master social and life skills which prepare them for life. “Growing to Learn, Learning to Grow” is more than a slogan and supports DIRT GROUP participants in understanding the purpose of group skills training is to transfer newly acquired skills to other areas of their day to day life in order to increase the quality of their relationships.
Kenny and his colleagues provide creative, therapeutic, experiential skills training for individuals, groups, and families in the context of a gardening/farming program, DIRT GROUP. We also provide training for parents, social workers and social work students, educators, clergy, mental health providers, and community organizations on issues related to children’s mental health, parenting, early childhood/youth development programming, trauma/secondary trauma, resiliency, attachment, suicide awareness and prevention, and treatment strategies for working with at-risk youth.
DIRT GROUP was the topic of Kenny’s thesis research and was born out of a passion to help young people and families get back to the roots of learning. One of the group leaders Kenny interviewed for his thesis reported, “if you want to teach a kid how to cooperate, put them in a situation where it necessary for them to cooperate with others in order to be successful”.