The Office of Student Diversity, in combination with a program through Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, aims to address the current mental health crisis through a trip to the childhood home of scientist and inventor George Washington Carver.
The event, named “Prairies to Mainstreet” by senior in history and event coordinator Noah Larson, is the Pittsburg State equivalent of “Mountains to Mainstreet,” a national program that promotes park-focused programming in cities across the United States.
“There’s about twenty-five people all across the country that are making their own little ‘Mountains to Mainstreet’ events in whatever parks are close to them,” Larson said. “I changed the name mainly because, as everyone knows, we don’t have mountains.”
“Mountains to Mainstreet’s’ main focus is to address the mental health crisis during the pandemic through nature and taking people out to these national parks, (helping them to) not only assess their own mental health but also to get them away from modern life at least for one day.”
Students participating in the fieldtrip will travel to George Washington Carver National Monument, a park in Diamond, MO registered with the National Parks Service (NPS). The park grounds include the 240-acre farm originally owned by Moses Carver. The farm was the birthplace and childhood home of George Washington Carver, a man known for his scientific achievements and his work with the Tuskegee Institute. According to the National Parks Service website, the monument was the first birthplace site ever officially recognized for someone other than a current or former US President, and the monument was the first recognized by NPS to honor the contributions of an African American.
“Compared to other national historic sites and national battlefields in this area, the George Washington Carver monument is more relevant to this event,” Larson said. “Pretty much all of George W. Carver’s life he was trying to heal his trauma through nature. The monument is his birthplace, and if you read a lot of his letters, throughout his life he attributed his childhood backyard as being a place of peace and healing. Knowing that, I felt (the monument) was the perfect place for this event.”
Several of the activities planned for the event will have emphases on nature, mental health, and history. Students will have the opportunity to tour the museum at the historical site along with surrounding trails and natural features with a park ranger with various interspersed mental health activities. Tropical Smoothie is also providing food for the event.
“A lot of the activities that are going to take place will be addressing depression, anxiety, and suicide,” Larson said. “One of our little activities, for example, will just be to paint. There’s a pond at George W. Carver, and for about fifteen to thirty minutes we’re just going to paint and listen to the pond. Another activity will be sort of a game to address mental health issues that college students typically face. We’ll also be having a nature walk and a tour of the museum.”
The event will be held on Oct. 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Interested students can contact Noah Larson or find a flyer around campus (with more being distributed on Friday, Oct.1) with a QR code to join the trip’s GroupMe. Transportation is provided for up to twenty students.