The OLL lets learning come alive, literally. Students spend a lot of time amidst the plants, for classes, for clubs, and for fun. “It’s different every day, every week. You get to know these plants in each season,” says Teresa Jones, Professor of Plant Biology. Botany students each adopt a native plant in the OLL and explore all of its botanical attributes. Their research and photos are compiled into our growing Plant Collection database.
[pullquote align="left"]Students are responsible for learning about their plant scientifically, but they get to know it in other ways because they’re paying attention. As you pay attention, you’re learning in ways you never imagined.
— Teresa Jones, Professor of Botany, Science Department Chair[/pullquote]
Sites and plantings in the OLL provide students with hands-on experiences that enhance their course work. The OLL serves a variety of academic programs and use of the gardens has been incorporated into many curricula and courses: Botany, Biology Environmental Science, Geology, Soil Science, Horticulture—these are the obvious ones. But art students use the grounds to observe, draw and paint. Students write here. Innovative collaboration between the science and art departments has created the Pigment Project, where plants with specific pigment properties are grown and processed for use in diverse artistic creations. The larger college community has enjoyed OLL-based workshops in flower arranging and gardening; and our students and staff run a Farmer's Market from spring to fall selling produce and flowers grown right here at GCC—all profits (and lots of produce, too) are donated to the GCC Food Pantry.
Our students also work in the gardens as interns and researchers; a biology student interested in entomology researched pollinators in the Wildflower Meadow by identifying all of the insects in his research plots during the fall semester, and another imagined, designed and installed a rain garden to replace a concrete swale with the multiple benefits of controlling water runoff, adding beauty, and providing pollinators with more native plant sources. Collaboration between diverse educators, the facilities staff and community resource people make these kinds of projects possible. Diversity is an attribute of both the healthy ecosystems showcased in the OLL and of dynamic learning environments. The opportunities for hands-on learning will continue to grow alongside the plants at GCC.
Meadow Teaching Garden
In the far northeastern corner of the GCC campus is the Meadow Teaching Garden. This site was chosen because the soil is perfect for vegetable production, full of old alluvial soil from a time when the Green River flooded the area and deposited silt loam. It drains well, but also holds a significant amount of moisture and is very fertile, flat and easy to cultivate. Because of its distance from any water or electricity, GCC called upon Renewable Energy program faculty and students to install photovoltaic (PV) panels and a solar pump for irrigation. In addition to keeping plants alive, the project helps demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of careers in sustainable agriculture.
This organic garden is used predominantly for classes in Horticulture, Organic Gardening, Four Season Farming and Soil Science, where students study ways to test and adjust soil acidity and build soil organic matter and fertility using cover crops. Data students collect is used by subsequent classes to continue improving growing conditions with the ultimate goal of creating a productive, no-till agriculture system.
Two GCC interns worked on a season extension project to grow crops beyond the normal growing season; either later into the fall or earlier in the spring. By installing small, low tunnels at the site and covering pipes of bent electric conduit with clear plastic we can carry crops over from the fall into the winter.