PHOTO: Aimee Nielson, UK Ag. Communications
Imagine an area at a local school where students socialize, sit and write while enjoying art in the form of sculptures, paved walkways, murals and even plants grown at the school. Some University of Kentucky College of Agriculture students recently made this a reality for The Learning Center at Linlee in Lexington.
Each fall, UK students enrolled in the Department of Landscape Architecture’s materials and methods class design and implement a service project. But this year, the project was a little broader and more unique than in years past. They enlisted the help of TLC students throughout the process.
“The students in this group served as partners, and UK students served as mentors,” said Ryan Hargrove, UK landscape architecture assistant professor. “We actually worked on a series of projects that are all part of a sustainable master plan for TLC, and we’ll continue to be involved in future projects on the campus. Their approach to learning is very hands on and it’s their goal to get students involved in real world projects like growing their own food for the cafeteria, rain gardens, and creating a workshop area for sustainable energy. Everyone was forward thinking and inspiring to work with.”
UK landscape architecture senior Maureen Dreckman, an Oldham County native, designed the winning plans. She said it was humbling that her fellow students and the TLC students chose her design.
“We created boards to demonstrate the project and presented them to faculty (and TLC students),” she said. “They chose mine because they said it addressed issues they were concerned with--multi use, accessible when buses come through, permeable space, a place for students to come and relax and outdoor classroom potential.”
Ron Chi, TLC principal said the school for 12 through 19-year-olds is based on the premise of empowering people to lead and take initiative.
“The district (Fayette County Public Schools) had the foresight to think outside the box,” Chi said. “Our kids are valuing school; they have opportunities to create, construct and problem solve, not just here, but globally.”
Chi said the chance to partner with the UK College of Agriculture gave his students even more opportunities to make connections with what they are learning and the real world. Chi worked with TLC’s outdoor learning coordinators Cindy Zeller and Chris Salyers to choose students to participate in the collaboration with UK students. He said they chose enthusiastic students who were seriously considering landscape architecture as a career opportunity.
Spencer Denison is a junior at TLC. He wanted to be involved in the Art Plaza project for several reasons.
“I wanted to give back to my school,” he said. “I realized a lot of work goes into designing things--planning, building, labor, getting materials. We worked with UK students, digging trenches, pouring concrete; it was fun, and it makes me feel good and proud that I was a part of something that will go on through several generations.”
“We have a professional product that is going to last for years and years,” Salyers said. “Even more impressive was the process that our students got to go through; they are walking away with a wealth of experience in core content areas like math and science, but also engineering and learning in a natural outdoor lab.
Chi said he believes Hargrove and UK understand how to reach students that need an interactive learning experience.
“The magic took place in the classroom where their students came together with our students,” he said. “Blueprints were lined up in the gym, and our kids were involved in the whole process, even participating as a customer. It was something that was more real and something that could be part of their career.”
Hargrove said his students will continue working with TLC on the master plan for the campus.
“They plan to have an outdoor learning center that will be open to the community,” he said. “We have been very involved in that process.The service projects are really the most valuable project my students do. They often tell me it’s their favorite for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it’s learning by doing.”
Ryan Hargrove, 859-257-3980