The Brilliance of a Scientist: George Washington Carver

May 25, 2012

NCR-SARE grant recipient and Administrative Council member, Edgar Hicks, and NCR-SARE Administrative Council member, Nancy Williams, recently contributed to a feature about George Washington Carver in Revive Omaha Magazine’s Empowerment Edition.

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The Brilliance of a Scientist Through the Carver Grange of Omaha (CarGO)

Source: Revive Omaha Magazine, by By No More Empty Pots, Susan Whitfield & Nancy Williams, April 2013

George Washington Carver was a ‘living green’ hero. Living green was a way of life for him and he spent his life sharing his admiration for plants with others through chemistry, art, and education. He believed that plants had the potential to uplift a people; improving them and becoming self-sufficient by using a variety of plants like sweet potatoes, soybeans, and peanuts in ways not before imagined. And anyone who knows Edgar Hicks knows that he feels that way too.

Hicks an Omaha resident, with an extensive professional background in agriculture, loves to talk about Carver and how this agricultural chemist, whose development of products derived from peanuts, revolutionized the South’s agricultural economy. Like Carver, Hicks too believes in the importance of getting an education to help improve one’s economic station in life. With this value so profoundly imprinted into his soul, Hicks began one of his lifetime journeys to engage young people in a community Grange, thinking it could be another vessel for them to learn about leadership, education, self sufficiency, and civic responsibility.

The Grange has a rich 145 year history of supporting the family, and is a community organization with its roots in agriculture. It provides members with the opportunity to learn and grow to their full potential as citizens and leaders. Hicks, a past member of the Executive Committee of the Nebraska State Grange and its current Historian, loves engaging in conversations about the Grange.

Recently Hicks had become troubled by the rising number of children struggling to graduate from high school and wanted to do something to make a difference in his community. He met with Omaha Senator Brenda Council (11th District) to discuss his ideas about strategies to help youth develop leadership skills by teaching about public policies and how to positively affect community change, and by exposing them to opportunities in agriculture. He felt that the Grange’s legislative focus would be an excellent way to help make a meaningful impact by teaching youth about the interworking of the unicameral functions.

The primary goal of the Carver Grangeof Omaha is to expand hands-onapplied STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education and develop transferrable leadership skills in youth while cultivating an interest infood and related agriculture educational opportunities and careers. On October 11, 2011, nineteen individuals attended the initial meeting hosted by Hicks and Council to learn about the project. These individuals became the charter members. This charter represented the first new Nebraska chapter in 100 years. To commemorate this event, on January 3, 2012, Ed Luttrell, Washington, DC, President,  National Grange of the Order Of Patrons of Husbandry, traveled to Omaha to personally serve the group its charter.

CarGO’s first local project involves The Dictionary Project, whose vision includes providing a dictionary toevery student across the United States to help them read and write. The National Grange became involved with the Dictionary Project seven years ago; over 465,000 dictionaries have been donated to students by Grange members in 38 states. In Omaha, CarGO provided the first set of dictionaries to a fourth grade class at Druid Hill Elementary in the Omaha Public School District, under the leadership of Jade Rodgers, Parent Liaison (a charter CarGO member). The students are using the dictionaries in class and will engage in a public policy literacy project that includes reviewing Nebraska Unicameral legislative bills and writing letters tothe legislators about their interest and the possible impact in their community. CarGO members will support the student efforts and intend to connect them with related projects in the community.

About George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver had a thirst for knowledge and helping people. During his lifetime his roles included a chemist, a gardener, a plant breeder, a mycologist, an artist, an educator, and a humanitarian. He dedicated his life to improving the lives of the poor in the south through agricultural research. You can read about and see Carver’s work in museums, online, and at a national monument dedicated to him in Missouri. There are materials for students, parents, and educators. Check out some of these links to find out more about George Washington Carver, a brilliant scientist and contributor to humanity.

Black History WEB – George Washington Carver Resources

Carver National Monument

National Park Service – American Visionaries:George Washington Carver

Topics: Community Development