Honors College Students Clean Up Community Garden
Jan. 22, 2024
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd
By Kade Brackin
To revitalize the Sam Houston State University Bearkat Community Garden, nearly 50 students from the Elliott T. Bowers Honors College participated in a garden clean-up event at the SHSU Horticulture Center on Dec. 2. Thanks to the combined efforts of Biology Professor Jeff Wozniak, Honors College Associate Director Kendall Gragert and the honors students who volunteered their time and talent, the community garden is ready for spring planting once again.
“We got so much done,” Wozniak said. “It was probably the most productive afternoon of work that’s ever been done out here. I’m really appreciative to the Honors students for coming out, getting their hands dirty and putting in a lot of hard work. Together we accomplished everything we needed to to get the Bearkat Community Garden back up and running.”
The Bearkat Community Garden was started in 2016 with funds from an MLK Day of Service grant and was a collaborative effort between the Departments of Biological Sciences, Agriculture and the Center for Community Engagement. It was later maintained by various Academic Community Engagement (ACE) projects geared to combat food insecurity, but fell into disrepair due to faculty retiring, student leadership graduating and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Plans to revitalize the garden started with an ACE project in the Fall 2023 UNIV 1101 freshman honors scholar cohort. Students voted to focus their efforts to spearhead getting the community garden running again for their ACE project. Those efforts were aided by, Gragert, who received mini-grant funds for the project.
“Last spring, I conducted a mini-program assessment on my Fall 2022 UNIV 1101 honors scholar curriculum,” Gragert said. “When reviewing the curriculum for the pillars of effective honors pedagogy, the only thing that was really missing from my prior curriculum was community engagement. When the university offered mini-grants, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to seek funding to integrate community engagement into the curriculum. Although this was a small project, this builds proficiencies that will one day be applicable at the macro level in their various disciplines.”
In addition to writing the grant, Gragert also played a large role in organizing the project by managing the budget and acquiring the proper permissions.
“I am honestly blown away by how much was done in a four-hour period,” she said. “It really made me proud to see that when our honors students engage in community volunteerism, they aren’t just doing it to clock hours. They do everything to the best of their ability and see the work through until the end. We worked hard, but we had fun while doing it.”
There are big plans for the garden moving forward, including plans for SHSU honors students to engage with local school district students at the garden for their ACE project. The project will include honors students leading middle schoolers in educational activities at the community garden focusing on nutrition, composting and other gardening related projects, according to Wozniak.
“We want to get the garden to a point where it is sustainable, well maintained and available to a wide range of student groups to utilize,” Wozniak said. “In the spring semester, the goal will be to advertise that it’s back up and running, invite student groups and faculty to come back out to the garden to teach, adopt a garden bed and enjoy gardening.”
Going beyond the current semester, Wozniak has big plans for the garden and is working to make it a place where the community can come together for not just gardening but to engage with neighbors.
“Ideally, we would like to move towards establishing a student garden manager position, someone who could be the boots on the ground to help organize all garden activities. We’d like to establish official open garden hours and even hold student events like movie nights and potlucks. There’s really a lot of really cool stuff the Bearkat Community Garden could support.”
If your student group is interested in adopting a bed in the Bearkat Community Garden, please reach out to the Center for Community Engagement (email@example.com).
- END -
This page maintained by SHSU's Communications Office:
Director of Content Communications: Emily Binetti
Communications Manager: Mikah Boyd
Communications Specialist: Campbell Atkins
Please send comments, corrections, news tips to Today@Sam.edu