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Service learning blooms with community garden

Story by Kenzie Kramer

Starting this summer, Drake students will see a little more green on campus with the addition of a community garden.

The garden, which is the product of grant money requested by a former environmental science capstone class, will be situated on the corner of 25th Street and Forest Avenue across from Drake’s Knapp Center and next to Forest Laundry and Cleaners.

From the start, the garden has been a widely student-led initiative. After a capstone class secured funding, two student positions, sophomores Emily Wilkins and Madi Johansen, were hired to plan and implement the space as service-learning ambassadors.

Emily Wilkins, an environmental science and policy double major, focuses mostly on the development side of the garden by securing donations and working with the designer on the layout of the space. Students can expect to see fresh produce along with other plants.

“The garden will have a couple of raised beds as well as a classroom area,”  Wilkins said.

The classroom area of the garden will be used as an educational space for students involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs summer program to teach them about the science in gardening.

Madi Johansen, an environmental policy major, is working to set up the educational programs in the garden. Currently, the environmental science capstone class is working on lesson plans about photosynthesis, nutrients and recycling for the students. Johansen hopes this will help them become more environmentally aware.

“Kids around the Drake neighborhood don’t have very many opportunities to go out into nature,” Johansen said. “I think that could cause a lot of environmental issues in the future.”

The children who are involved in these programs will also be allowed to take some of the crops from the garden back to their homes.

Johansen and Wilkins foresee the possibility of more opportunities for Drake students in the garden as well as classes in Des Moines schools.

“It would be great if environmental science classes could come out to the garden for class,” Johansen said.

Both students are also working on other ways that Drake students could benefit from the garden. Due to the risk of vandalism, the garden will remain locked at all times and can be accessed only by those who are involved with the garden. Wilkins sees the garden as a possible place for students to relax on warm days.

“One thing we’re hoping to do is open the garden up for students to study in during certain times,” Wilkins said.

If all goes as scheduled, the garden should be set up with the beds and fences ready to go at the end of May. Groups and those looking to volunteer can contact Mandi McReynolds, Drake’s service-learning coordinator via email at mandi.mcreynolds@drake.edu.

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