Three students in the university’s Spanish language department are hard at work planting Semillas Sostenibles (sustainable seeds) into the hearts and minds of bilingual 4th and 5th graders at El Buen Pastor, a local organization dedicated to helping Latin American families adjust to life in Winston-Salem. Their four-week course teaches the children the basics about the environment, sustainability, and healthy lifestyles through vocabulary in Spanish and English and engaged-learning projects.

Seniors Katelyn Wohlford and Chiara Singleton and junior Caryn Miller hatched the idea for Semillas Sostenibles through a service learning project for their Entrepreneurship in Latin American and Latin Cultures course.

The women originally wanted to help start a community garden after being inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Upon learning that El Buen Pastor already has a successful garden, they shifted their focus to education.

Each weekly workshop focuses on an important theme regarding health and sustainability. Topics included rainforest preservation (and terms such as shaman and deforestation), climate change and recycling.

“The children are the ones who are going to have to deal with this (the state of the planet),” Miller said. “We need to spread the word about what we’ve learned so that they can educate their younger peers and make a difference.”

To document their progress, Wohlford, Singleton and Miller created a blog to showcase pictures from the workshops as well as the vocabulary words, facts, and activities from each week.

“I love seeing what surprises them (the students),” Wohlford said. “It’s those surprises that keep them really interested.”

With the conclusion of the program on April 5, the creators are working to make Semillas Sostenibles transferable to other organizations similar to El Buen Pastor and also to elementary schools in the area.

Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern