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The 2009 ASHS Annual Conference

Service-Learning In Horticulture: The Freshman Experience

Monday, July 27, 2009: 8:15 AM
Laclede (Millennium Hotel St. Louis)
Brian Trader, Assistant, Professor, Plant and Soil Sciences, Mississippi State University, Misssissippi State, MS
April K. Heiselt, Assistant, Professor, Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology, Mississippi State University, Misssissippi State, MS
Service-learning is a pedagogy which provides faculty with an opportunity to teach students by linking academic course objectives with community needs. In the fall of 2008, as part of a living-learning community on the Mississippi State University campus, six incoming freshman from various academic majors began a service-learning project with Sudduth Elementary School (K-2). With an Assistant Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences as their mentor, the students were given the task of renovating an aged landscape while integrating learning tools for both the elementary teachers and students to use in the new gardens. Additionally, the college freshmen were asked to instruct the elementary students through the use of innovative activities regarding gardening and plants. Throughout the fall term, the freshmen transformed an overgrown, colorless, neglected landscape into a garden designed to educate and facilitate learning. For example, some of the new gardens were arranged in different shapes to build vocabulary skills, while other gardens had themes increasing overall gardening knowledge. Each student worked with a different elementary class and met once a week for an hour to work in the gardens or raise awareness about plants and the environment. Implementation of projects such as painting stepping stones, planting spring bulbs, and coloring celery with food dye kept elementary students entertained and advanced horticultural learning. The students also developed an assessment questionnaire for the elementary teachers with which they worked. This data proved helpful in making improvements to the garden. At the end of the term, the freshmen presented their service-learning project at a leadership showcase for the community, administration, and family members. The reported outcomes of the project were overwhelmingly positive as they included insights about leadership lessons learned, as well as information gained about horticulture, and civic responsibility. The project continues to flourish as the elementary school has adopted the garden and the students and teachers maintain its development and upkeep.
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