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Sign advertising Donna Arabian's horticulture therapy sessions at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center.
Sign advertising Donna Arabian’s horticulture therapy sessions at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center.

This past week I interviewed 10 people within the worlds of horticultural therapy, urban agriculture, and forest therapy in order to gather more information on what makes plants so beneficial for us. These experts are:

  • Kay Knight, Off-site coordinator, Horticultural Therapy Services, Windy City Harvest, Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Joel Flagler, Horticultural Therapist, County Extension Department Head, Agricultural Agent, Department of Plant Biology, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Gerry Sherman, Horticultural Therapist, Regeis Care Center
  • Rachel Kimpton, Coordinator, Washington Park Youth Farm, Windy City Harvest, Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Natalie Brickajlik, Vocational Rehabilitation and Horticultural Program Coordinator, The Bridge
  • Donna Arabian, Horticultural Therapist, Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center
  • Ronald Smith, Horticultural Therapy Participant at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center
  • Gwenn Fried, Manager of Horticultural Therapy Services, Rusk Rehabilitation Center, NYU Langone Health
  • Phyllis D’Amico, Program Coordinator, Horticultural Therapy Certificate Program, New York Botanical Garden
  • Nancy Kopans, Founder of Urban Edge Forest Therapy

Through these interviews I found out a lot more about the human-plant relationship. I distilled my findings down to four categories of what experience and activities in nature can provide:

  • PRIDE: creation, caretaking, responsibility
  • MENTAL ENGAGEMENT: focus, distraction, escape
  • HOPE for the future
  • SOCIAL INTERACTIONS: reminiscing and memories (both scent and visual)

I then ideated my project prototypes and final again using these findings as a guide. I spoke with my advisor Vanessa about my ideas and here is what I am working on for my project with the purpose of raising awareness of the benefits of plants to the people of New York City and eventually bringing plants to the people.

I am looking for and interviewing plant parents across New York City in order to share their stories about their relationships with their plants through a website and social media campaign. I’d like to use Ronald’s story, a man I spoke with at the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center for the campaign. And I’ve been receiving responses from a few Reddit posts for calls for NYC plant parents. I have one interview set up for tomorrow with a man working in institutional investing and I hope to gather 5-10 solid stories throughout the week. The campaign will tell these stories from their plants’ perspectives and will allow viewers to put themselves in the shoes of these people and hopefully will make them want to experience the de-stressing effects that plant life can bring. I will also use printed materials like stickers and postcards to advertise the campaign around the city. And then I plan on advertising a horticultural therapy event that will take place on the subway through the campaign. #plantsforall

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