Western Illinois University Introduces Teaching Garden
September 24, 2012
MACOMB, IL - - In a continuous effort to promote sustainability and provide new teaching opportunities, Western Illinois University recently broke ground on a teaching garden site on the Macomb campus.
With the help of Professor of Anthropology Heather McIlvaine-Newsad's First Year Experience (FYE) class, children from Western's Infant and Preschool Center gathered Thursday, Sept. 20, to sow the first seeds of the new garden, which is located behind Morgan Hall.
"The interaction between my FYE students and the preschool children was a real turning point for them. They have been very reserved, and I saw smiles I have not seen in the past four weeks. When we got back to the classroom, more than one asked if we could continue to do this on a weekly basis with the kids. I told them yes! It was a great learning experience for all of them," said McIlvaine-Newsad.
WIU's recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) department, sociology and anthropology department, kinesiology department, College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) Dean's office, Infant and Preschool Center, landscape maintenance department and the sustainability committee have partnered to create the on-campus garden.
"By partnering with the preschool, we have a number of goals: to promote active, healthy outdoor recreation; bring fresh and organic food to the preschool; provide a mentor/leadership opportunity for students in our courses, which include FYE, anthropology, RPTA and more; promote physical activity and healthy eating in preschool children; and provide a site for student volunteers and interns," said Rob Porter, RPTA assistant professor.
"We also hope to expand the program beyond the students by creating a therapeutic garden. Since studies have shown that community gardening has a specifically therapeutic use for those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses, the new garden will provide a stress relieving activity for members of the community. It could also be incorporated into WIU's Western Wellness program for faculty and staff," added McIlvaine-Newsad.
According to Tara Beal, superintendent of landscape maintenance, the garden was created using compost that was "home-grown" at Western from University dining halls' food scraps. By using this process, the compost becomes rich in organic material and helps improve soil, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and thousands of pounds of food waste are diverted from the landfill.
Rocky Sustains, Western's environmental sustainability program, is a supporter of the campus garden project as well. Participants in this program hope to maintain the garden with as natural of processes as possible by using natural methods to keep wildlife at bay, as well as to educate the student body of the benefits of gardening and eating locally grown food, according to Mandi Green, WIU's sustainability coordinator.
Breaking ground for the garden, which occurred on Monday (Sept. 17) and sowing the seeds was in conjunction with WIU's Fall We Care event.
For more information, contact Porter at (309) 298-1967 or firstname.lastname@example.org.