Growing Students, Growing Gardens

We embarked on an epic journey at the start of the Spring 2020 semester with great plans for our students to design and plant new gardens for the Arboretum Park and greater UCF campus through our Learning by Leading Program™.  This is our second semester for the program at UCF and both the Arboretum Gardens and Bee Campus USA Teams are in full force!  The student co-coordinators of these teams took on the challenge of guiding their interns in the development of the garden designs for “Whittier’s Walk, Phase II” and “The Oasis,” a pollinator garden that will sit atop a constructed berm in the area between the campus’s Business Administration, CREOL, and Harris Engineering buildings. The Arboretum Gardens co-coordinators are also working independently to design “The Hostess,” a camellia garden that will be planted at the entrance to the Arboretum Park leading to the greenhouse and community farm and garden.

As if that were not enough this semester the Arboretum is also working with students in the Environmental Studies Capstone Class on two additional projects! The first project is to develop an urban tree canopy plan for the continued, long-term movement of the Arboretum Park’s Master Plan. The second is designing stormwater planting plans for three ponds in the center of campus, a project supported by a generous donation from IDEAS For US with funding they received from the Green Latinos.  We are grateful for our partnership with the capstone class, and our community supporters.

In addition to these great projects we are excited to be working with UCF’s student chapter of the Audubon Society, The Knighthawks, who received a $10,000 grant to plant trees on campus.  The group is working with Arboretum and Landscape and Natural Resources to design a native trees and shrub garden in the Arboretum Park to support avian diversity and habitat at UCF.  Congratulations to the Knighthawks on their award, and a big thank top them for helping create an atmosphere on campus that supports both human and ecological well-being.

As COVID 19 continues to change our lives it is a testament to the strength, resilience, and determination of our students that they continue to plan their gardens through remote online meetings, modifying their planning horizons to accommodate the changed reality. The creativity and thoughtfulness that these students bring to the design of their gardens is overwhelming, and incredibly exciting. They deeply value their work and they want to leave the lasting legacy through their gardens to our program and to the community.

While the planting of these gardens will have to wait until the campus is open again and the students are able to return, our amazing teams will keep our projects moving forward and our spirits high, in spite of the inevitable delays and frustrations of the changed circumstances.  Like so many of the other challenges we face right now, we will get through this together, and we will continue growing gardens, growing students, and sowing love!

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