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Learning in the Garden at LMC’s Upward Bound Summer Academic Institute

July 11, 2013

BENTON TOWNSHIP, MI – During the six-week Upward Bound Summer Academic Institute (UBSAI), Lake Michigan College TRiO Upward Bound scholars are thriving in the classroom setting, both indoors and outdoors.  In addition to courses in biology, math, Spanish, composition, and literature, high school students in the program are learning that education does not just take place in the traditional classroom through the “Beyond the Garden Gate” experience, a vegetable garden located on the Napier Avenue campus.

“Each summer, Upward Bound scholars actively participate in UBSAI, but this year is different,” said Selene Anderson, Upward Bound Director. “By incorporating the garden into the Summer Academic Institute learning experience, the students actively apply the classroom knowledge they are gaining into a real world experience.”

According to LMC biology instructor Frank Stijnman, his students are researching plant growth by experimenting with various additives to corn seeds. The Summer Academic Institute participants were divided into groups and added different compounds, from inorganic dishwashing detergent to organic blood meal, to some of their corn seeds. Each group was provided a 6 foot by 2.5 foot plot of land to plant their treated corn seeds on one half and untreated corn seeds on the other half.  Each week the groups chart the growth of their corn.

Stijnman explained that even though he has been involved in high school plant projects in the past, they have all taken place in an indoor classroom.

“I am rewarded seeing the students excited about this project and asking questions about their experience in the garden. They want to be involved and that helps make the outdoor learning lab more effective than a purely theoretical approach,” Stijnman stated.

The UBSAI biology curriculum includes the scientific approach of measurements, record keeping, and analysis and conclusion. “This is their baby. When it comes time to crunch all the numbers, they will see what they have been responsible for and the data will be of more interest to them,” Stijnman added.

Other instructors incorporating the garden and the garden theme include Spanish instructor Mary Beller, who engages students in discussions of traditional Hispanic/Latino recipes that use produce being grown in the garden. Composition and literature instructor Chuck Jordan uses a variety of writing and reading opportunities, including Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, covering environmental concerns and food productivity.

According to Anderson, the UB garden will continue to provide educational opportunities beyond the summer program. Scholars will harvest the produce and deliver it to area families and contribute food for the College’s Holiday Food Basket program as part of an Upward Bound community service project.

When asked about her “Beyond the Garden Gate” experience, UB scholar DaJanae Greely said, “My thoughts honestly are how exciting it is to plant food at a college. I know that once we grow this food, we will donate it. I also think of it as a metaphor. By planting food in the ground, it represents what Upward Bound is doing for our education.”

Upward Bound is a federally funded precollege program and serves students attending Benton Harbor High School. For more information about the Lake Michigan College TRiO Upward Bound program contact Anderson at (269) 927-7061. 

 Upward Bound student Dajanae Greely

Upward Bound student DaJanae Greely

Upward Bound student Zaria Latara

Upward Bound student Zaria Latara

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