Students Thinking Green in Garden

Students Thinking Green in Garden


What was once a 90-foot steel frame structure that housed new trees, shrubs and the occasional pile of brush at the University of Science and Arts, is now teaming with new life and activity as the location of the Community Garden. The garden is part of the Service Learning/Civic Engagement program at the college.

USAO students and faculty members have completed the majority of the work in the garden. Chelsea Davis, a psychology major from Norman, came up with the idea for a garden while she was taking the Community Development course at USAO.

"My idea was to create a space where students and members of the community could get together and, not only have a place to grow their own produce, but to help the environment in a number of ways. USAO needs a place where students can learn to be self-sustainable," Davis said.

"The students in the Community Development class expressed to me that the idea of an on-campus garden provides great possibilities," said Dr. Craig Elder, assistant professor of management at USAO. "It can serve as an excellent outreach tool to the community and, at the same time, offer interested students a way to impact their own environment."

Several of Dr. Elder's classes have been involved in the development of the garden including the Social Responsibility class this summer.

"The garden has been the subject of several service learning classes. The first was a class on community development and grant writing. The students had to come up with service learning project ideas. Three of the four ideas actually became projects that are operating today including the Community Garden.

"Craig Elder has been very helpful in the development of the garden with classes that are helping to develop the garden's capacity," said Robert Edmondson, service learning coordinator at USAO.

In addition to on campus support, Edmondson says that the garden has received support from the community. "We've had great success working with community partners on this garden. Chickasha Lumber and Ross Seed have been very helpful. We've received good advice from the OSU Agricultural Extension and we have been working with Chickasha Public Schools.

"From the university we have had great support. We've received support from the student government and student services has paid for some of our expenses and the USAO Foundation has funded some of the infrastructure."

Fourth grade students from Chickasha Public Schools also are participating in the garden as Botany Buddies.

"What we did with the Botany Buddies was go to the store and buy a variety of seeds and starter kits. We took them to the fourth grade class and asked them to figure out what they wanted to plant. The students grew the seeds in the classroom. The kids then came out and planted their seeds. We showed them how to plant and how to compost. The kids got a kick out of knowing they would be eating something that was grown in cow poop.

"This summer we would like the kids to come out and see how the plants are doing. As fifth graders, they will be able to see the fruits of their labors and hopefully help the fourth graders to get their plants to grow next year," Edmondson said.

"Students are starting to participate in this project, but more students are needed. People want to be a part of the project and get their hands dirty."

Students at USAO can participate in service learning projects like the garden as part of classroom study or as an independent project.

The mission of the Service Learning/Civic Engagement (SLCE) program at the college is "to inspire the next generation of Oklahomans to become social entrepreneurs, leaders who apply creative problem solving skills to address the needs of underserved populations in our communities.

"By enhancing interdisciplinary classroom instruction with innovative service-oriented projects and collaborative undergraduate research, the SLCE program facilitates durable learning and encourages a life-long commitment to civic engagement."

For more information about service learning or the community garden, log onto the USAO Service Learning website at or contact Edmondson at 405-574-1321. Edmondson can also be reached by e-mail at

Students in the Social Responsibility class work in the Community Garden at USAO. The garden is a project of the Service Learning/Civic Engagement program at the college. Although in the development stage, the garden has multiple goals including growing luffas and providing produce for the USAO cafeteria.