North Central College - Naperville, IL

Students’ outdoor assignment for environmental studies class changes their view

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Two columns of rectangular black plots of dirt along the pedestrian spine produce a variety of vegetables the campus community can eat at Kaufman Dining Hall.

Several students have helped tend these plots as part of Environmental Studies 120, People and Nature, taught by Martha Bohrer (photo, below), associate professor of English.

The class required students to dedicate two hours during spring term, working alongside members of the maintenance staff. Some volunteered early in the term and planted seeds, raised under grow lights, to seedling stage. Others volunteered later in the term and planted the seedlings and seed directly in the organic garden, which is part of a College sustainability project. Still others planted bedding plants around the campus buildings, removed sod to increase the size of the vegetable garden and weeded.

“I knew about the campus garden before, but I didn’t really know what it was about,” Cody McCullough ’11 said. “Now, being able to partake in it, I see how fragile it is and how easy it is to grow things to eat.”

Brittini Avery ’14, who had never gardened before, had a surprise of her own.

“I didn’t realize it took so long for the plants to grow,” she said. “It takes 75 to 85 days.”

Stephanie Chennell '11 enjoyed growing the plants organically. Many of the plants are heirloom varieties that come in many colors and are genetically more diverse.

“It feels good to produce and raise awareness,” Chennell said. “At Kaufman, you can see the vegetables with the crazy colors, so they’re easy to spot. It’s good to help move toward being green and eating organically.”

MarQuinta Moore ’14 found that helping out with the garden made her feel more “connected.”

“I learned how to produce things—not overuse—and to grow organically,” Moore said. “I’m proud of our work. We get to grow the food we eat, and we can take pride in the food and where it comes from.”

When tending the garden, students found great respect for members of the maintenance staff, who till the soil and manage the campus garden.

“I didn’t realize the amount of work they did and the diversity of the work they do around campus, including the garden,” Chennell, said. “I used to think that different people do different things, but I realize now that they’re all the same people. They’re very knowledgeable.”

“Before, I took the maintenance staff and what they do for granted,” McCullough agreed. “Now, I see that they love what they do.”

Together, the maintenance staff and students put together a garden that will continue to produce vegetables.

“I feel like I have accomplished something,” Avery said. “I can say, ‘Yeah! I planted those.’ Not to mention we get to eat what we planted.”

Interviews by Klariza Alvaran ’14, written by Gail Oesterle ’14

Anyone interested in volunteering at the campus garden may contact Abby Hahne, sustainability coordinator, at alhahne@noctrl.edu or 630-637-5623, and your name will added to the garden list serv. Through this list serv, you’ll learn about the produce being harvested and details about specific volunteer opportunities. Volunteer opportunities begin as early as next week, June 13.

06-08-2011