From left, faculty members Kevin Baldwin, Craig Watson and Brad Sturgeon, along with local science teacher Tammy Rankin, pause from their labors at the community garden site.
Monmouth College has received a $35,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help fund the “Green and Growing” educational outreach component of its campus garden initiative.
The grant was one of five awarded for projects in the EPA’s Region 5, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio. The annual grants to enhance environmental education and awareness are given to nonprofit organizations, government agencies, community groups, tribes, schools and universities.
“The EPA is pleased to support innovative programs that help increase knowledge about environmental issues through hands-on training and also provide tangible benefits to communities,” said EPA regional environmental education coordinator Megan Gavin.
Just east of its Founders Village residence halls, Monmouth College has begun to create a half-acre horticultural plot flanked by fruit trees, a grape arbor and bee hives. Receiving the grant will allow MC to fully implement “Green and Growing: The Monmouth College Campus Garden Educational Outreach Program,” which will provide training, field trips and project-based learning about sustainable gardening to the Monmouth community.
“We plan to create lesson plans and hold workshops for area teachers, parents and college faculty in the fall, and we’ll place informational kiosks and begin field trips for area schoolchildren,” said MC faculty member Craig Watson, who co-authored the grant proposal.
Goals and objectives of the project include engaging students and community members in real-world learning experiences and in project-based learning about sustainable gardening. It also seeks to encourage community members to engage in environmental stewardship through sustainable farming and home and community gardening practices.
“It is not traditional for gardeners to think about harvesting rainwater for their watering needs,” said assistant professor of chemistry Brad Sturgeon, who has been busy in the garden this summer. “At the garden, we not only have an example of how one could easily harvest rainwater at home, but we also have a 750-plus gallon rainwater harvesting system which includes a solar panel-driven, 12-volt water pump.”
The garden will also reap rewards for some Monmouth College seniors enrolled in civic engagement courses, which require students to become involved in community projects and contribute to civic improvement. Emphases within the environmental action subset of these courses include water quality, soil quality, recycling programs, the local food movement and bioregionalism.
“This grant enables us to build strong educational and community partnerships in the critically important arena of sustainable agriculture,” said Bren Tooley, director of MC’s grants program and co-author of the proposal. “It will enhance our ability to produce the kind of graduates best able to advance environmentally-aware practices and policies and to engage in effective environmental stewardship.”
“We need to rethink our agricultural practices, including modes of distribution and habits of consumption,” said Watson, regarding the overall need for the campus garden project. “We need to research, rethink and reform agribusiness in the Midwest and beyond. There is no single other environmental factor of equal weight in the Midwest.”
The garden project will also enhance the college’s recently launched Midwest Studies initiative, Watson noted.