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Rock Creek’s Learning Garden grows fruitful campus collaboration
Photos and Story by Janis Nichols
A lot of things grow in the Rock Creek Campus Learning Garden, but perhaps the one specimen that outshines, outgrows and outlasts is the all-seasons fruit known as “collaboration.”
No other program on the Rock Creek Campus exceeds the Garden’s penchant for wrapping its vines around so many interdisciplinary opportunities. Its newest endeavor involves the garden, ASPCC, the Sustainability Office, a Rock Creek design class, a PCC alumna, a GPS class, a cartographer, a photographer, and the Building Construction Technology (BCT) and Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) programs.
The whole thing started with a basic questions: How does the college assist visitors to the Learning Garden on those occasions when staff are not available? The answer is a welcome kiosk funded by a The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) and ASPCC Rock Creek.
“The welcome kiosk will serve as a bulletin board for new visitors, volunteers, community bed stewards, classes and the community,” said Elaine Cole, Rock Creek sustainability coordinator and TGIF grant author. “It will offer food market programs, volunteer, job and event information, photos, handouts, and general information about the Learning Garden. Near the kiosk will be an area where bed stewards and our Learning Garden staff can leave extra food from the day’s harvest.”
Recently, the garden helped PCC win a national sustainability award.
The kiosk required graphic design assistance and a new logo. Instructor Linnea Gruber’s fall 2015 “Design Studio” class stepped up and students presented eight logo designs. The design by student Verenice Gutierrez was selected and it was buffed and polished by PCC alumna and graphic artist Jenny Martinez.
But we’re jumping ahead. When Rock Creek instructor Randy Morris was in the Learning Garden, an awarding winning area that uses a closed loop recycling system, a fews year back eating pizza made with garden ingredients and cooked in its Earthen oven, the conversation turned to an interesting idea. How about getting Geographic Information Systems and Global Positioning Systems students into the garden to use the site for practice?
“The Learning Garden is a diverse space and because the public is encouraged to visit, we agreed that some sort of guide map would be helpful,” Morris said. “One of the fundamental principles of cartography is the synthesis of complex data into a simple visual model. Our goal was to provide visitors to the garden with a friendly and efficient introduction to what is actually a very dynamic landscape. Part of the map’s display actually integrates this dynamism into it by having an information sheet attached that can be swapped out as crops are changed for the season.”
During the course of three terms during 2015, Morris had students from several of his classes collect GIS data and photographs. He handed the final cartographic work to Eric Roberts. Other PCC students who contributed are Lindsay Palmquist and Erick Dunn who managed the research, and student Mike Holscher, who served as photographer.
Read about how the garden is the center of many community partnerships.
The kiosk will be constructed by students enrolled in the “Alternative Building” class taught by Bernhard Masterson in the BCT Program. They will use as much recycled materials as possible. The design also calls for a Plexiglas cover which will be provided by the AMT program.
Learning Garden Coordinator Nora Lindsey said, “One of the things I enjoy the most about working with students on projects in the garden is that they can stop by years later and see their work and how it continues to enrich the space. It is so wonderful to be able to offer students a chance to do meaningful, lasting work and to be able to look out in the garden and feel the imprint of so many dedicated hands and spirits.”
The goal is to unveil the welcome kiosk during the campus’ Earth Week celebrations, which takes place April 18-22. With more than 10 collaborators already in line for the garden’s pizza, visitors might want to get there early.