Service Learning at the ARB

May 17th, 2012 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

Posted on behalf of Alyce Flanagan, UW student intern

our first planting

This spring one of my classes gave me the option of doing a service-learning project instead of writing a research paper. I jumped at the opportunity to gain some sort of real world experience instead of sitting in the library.  I ended up volunteering in the vegetable garden at the UWBG Arboretum, and it has been an enjoyable experience.  It is great to have an excuse to spend a few hours outside, get dirt on my hands and learn about growing food.  The class that my arboretum service learning is connected to is Global Food Policy.  Modern cultures have become extremely disconnected from our sources of food.  Technology allows for the mass production of cheap food, and working in a garden has given me perspective on how what it takes to grow vegetables.

Food is a vital resource that is frequently taken for granted.  Growing and gathering food is something that was an integral part of our ancestors’ lifestyles.  In recent years, we have grown away from this routine.  Food is bought from the grocery store, and we have only a vague idea of where it was before that. My Global Food Policy class looked at where food was before it got to the store.  Our severe disconnection from the production of the food we eat is unfortunate, but it is a system that we are totally reliant on. Learning about food; where is comes from and how its grown, is the first step to not taking food and this its large scale production for granted.

Food sovereignty is an issue that relates to peoples right to decide what food they eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced.  In America, most people would say that they have the right to choose their food, but in reality, much of our food is under the control of a few big agricultural businesses.  Growing at least some of our own food is an important step towards food sovereignty.

future pickles

The vegetable garden at the UWBG Arboretum is intended to teach children about the process of growing food, and hopefully inspire in them an interest in growing their own food. Volunteering at the Arb has done just that for me.  Watching plants grow over the course of a few months is somehow exciting and motivational.  Hopefully sometime in the next few years I will be able to start a garden and become at least a little less reliant on the mysterious system that produces food that feeds the world.

I am looking forward to visiting during the summer and seeing how the garden has changed.

3 sisters garden


Garden-based Restoration and Outreach Workshops (GROW Program): An Introduction

April 19th, 2011 by Barbara Selemon

I am excited to announce that the UW Botanic Gardens received a grant from the Jiji Foundation that has made it possible for the Education staff at the Washington Park Arboretum to reach high school students, an audience currently underserved by our environmental education program.  Thanks to this generous gift this school year, the Garden-based Restoration and Outreach Workgroups (G.R.O.W.) Program was launched in January, 2011 and is actively engaged with three high school classes and one after school teen center program.

The Washington Park Arboretum conducts programs at the Arboretum through their Seedlings and Saplings Program for elementary and middle school students.   As a subset of the newly designed Spruce Program, which focuses on high-school learning, the G.R.O.W. program reaches out to students at their school in recognition that the high school schedule doesn’t allow much time for field trips.  Therefore, the program coordinator visits the school sites and works as a resource manager for each project in the making.

Currently, students in Jessica Torvik’s Horticulture/Ecology classes at Nathan Hale High School are involved in creating a farm to produce organic vegetables on a site surrounding their newly built greenhouse.   Susan Barth’s horticulture class at Nova High School is involved in enhancing a site next to their raised vegetable beds that will invite students to sit down and enjoy the sights and smells of the garden.  Students enlisted in Maggie Rose’s horticulture classes at Ingraham High School will be working on a storm water/rain garden installation at the Center for Urban Horticulture under the guidance of Lisa Haglund, who is utilizing this site as her senior project in completion of a degree in Community, Environment and Planning.  Garfield Teen Center is a public afterschool program that offers a variety of classes to teens, such as music composition and comic book illustration.  Students here will be planting a water farm indoors to grow vegetables for harvest and enjoyment.

As Program Coordinator, I visit each school group and work with them on an individualized plan to learn basic horticulture and specific knowledge related to their projects.   I act as a resource for them to help design and create their garden and to select the right plant for the right place.  Field trips are being planned to the Center for Urban Horticulture and the UW Farm on upper campus during which time the students will partake in a service project as well as tour the sites.   Meanwhile, students will be working on site assessments, soil analyses and plant selection and installation throughout the spring.  By mid-June, projects should be going strong or have had a very good beginning.

By Barbara Selemon

GROW Program Coordinator