Two teachers fell in love with each other and the Mississippi Delta. Now their home, they teach the community about the Delta's land and resources.
Amanda and Jon Delperdang landed in the Mississippi Delta separately as teachers for the Teach for America program.
They fell in love with each other and the Delta and decided to stay.
Amanda taught at Weddington Elementary in Greenville for nine years while Joe worked at various local schools and nonprofits.
The couple, now married, put down roots in Greenville and have two kids today.
A gardener her whole life, Amanda became interested in native plants and ways to garden sustainably while teaching.
“I started to do garden activities with students while I was teaching and was amazed at how engaged and excited they were to learn about the natural world. I find a lot of peace and healing as I spend time outside and I think that was also true for the children. There are a lot of challenges for schools right now and as a teacher I was always looking for more resources to support the students,” she said.
Amanda and Jon’s work with the students led to their brainchild — The Mississippi Delta Nature and Learning Center.
The center is a place that cares for the earth and the people who live in the Delta.
“We are doing that by providing creative educational outdoor spaces for children and their families to learn and play, job training for youth and adults, and outdoor community recreation for people living in and visiting the Mississippi Delta,” Amanda said.
After buying land from the city of Greenville at a discounted rate, the couple now has 26 acres located at 1950 Lisa Drive. The couple is building The Heart and Soul Children’s Garden on five acres of creative play spaces for children ages 2 to 10. The couple has received funding and support from 19 community partners as well as a sizable grant from the Community Foundation of Washington County. The garden will feature a total of 10 themed garden spaces focused on creative, hands-on play and learning centered around science and literacy.
The couple is also starting an Environmental Leadership Program for high school and college students in partnership with AmeriCorps, the federal service agency. The program will teach young people about environmental stewardship and give them training from professionals in the area to restore land to native habitat. They will have two miles of trail through that restored woodland and wetland with educational signage along the trail.
“Once we open, we’ll be a place where there’s always something going on. We’re excited to get people outside and teach them about the wonderful world we live in,” Amanda said.
Once we open, we’ll be a place where there’s always something going on. We’re excited to get people outside and teach them about the wonderful world we live in.
The center and garden will also feature a water play area, a sound and music garden, a “Tot Town” for toddlers to explore, and a “Step into a Story Garden,” where students can read books or recognize the setting of books to be transported to that place, a Native Cottage Garden with play huts and native plants, a tropical garden with grass huts, a magical garden with a castle, and adventure trail, and a grassland area.
Amanda said she and her husband love the Delta because of the amazing people.
“We love that people are down to earth, and I mean that literally and figuratively! People are connected to the land here and once you know where to look there is a lot going on,” she said.
The center and garden are still under construction but there are plans to open by the summer.
“We’re beyond grateful for the support we’ve gotten. Three years ago, this was all just an idea and now we have an actual space where people will be able to come soon and enjoy time outdoors with their families.”
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