Children’s garden sprouts seeds of ‘green’ education

Charissa Price

Staff at MCC are diligently working together to make a children’s garden on campus that will provide a fun, hands-on learning place for the local community.
“There is not a children’s garden anywhere in Maricopa County, so it would be a one of a kind,” explained Kris Bliss acting supervisor of the Children’s Center.
The idea was formed by Gerry Davis, former vice-president of administrative services, Richard Cluff, director of facilities on campus, and geography professor Steve Bass, in hopes of bringing the local community together.
“Our idea was to have it not only available to Mesa Community College but the community in general. it would be great to have a place here on campus where kids can go to get back in touch with nature and also a place for students to go and hang out,” informed Bliss.
Bliss joined forces with Bass as they are desperately working to raise funds for supplies and products needed to make this vision a reality.
Bliss has applied for two grants. Although one was recently declined, the other grant is still pending approval.
“Our other grant is through an organization called Project Learning Tree, and they’re funded through the U.S. forest service. they encourage cooperation between K-12 organizations with local community colleges,” explained Bliss.
MCC staff currently is partnered with Rhodes Junior High’s program called SOAP (Save Our Amazing Planet).
“So far what we’ve done is made a ground bed that actually spells out MCC. we’ve gotten everything donated. the Rhodes junior high students got a bunch of things from local nurseries, I gave them a letter asking for donations and then they came and they planted a couple weekends ago,” informed Bliss.
An on-campus landscape design class helped draw up plans for the garden that included a bamboo maze, a butterfly garden, a half buried tractor, and shaded seating area.
“It will be kind of an outside learning laboratory because I think as a nation so many kids spend so much time inside, were becoming very urbanized.children are missing out on being outside and being in nature and that’s really important,” Bliss said.
Creating a garden that welcomes the presence of students, staff, and the local community may eventually lead to a more desirable campus drawing people to the area.
“People come to these institutions and they don’t stay, they don’t spend their day here. it’s not a very desirable area from that standpoint,” Bass said.
The area in discussion was originally designed as a desert landscape used to demonstrate how desert plants were grown, however the area wasn’t maintained over the years observed Bass.
Bass expresses the motivation of the garden saying, “I think there were two things that we were looking at, one was to beautify that area… it’s matured to a point where it’s not real functional as an area.
“I have been trying to initiate some projects that will make us proud to live in this part of the city,” Bass said.
“A garden where the kids in the child center can come out and see the food that’s growing and actually engage in the process, but so can people from the community. we want it to be an area where they can learn about the environment more than just concrete,” encouraged Bass.

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