New learning garden takes shape at urban Cascade Campus in North Portland
The garden has been the ambition of student leaders at Cascade for more a decade, said Kendi Esary, manager of student life and leadership programs at the campus.
“The students have wanted this for more than 10 years,” Esary said. “It’s really exciting to see it starting to take shape.”
The garden will serve both as a source of food for the campus community and as an academic resource, said PCC Sustainability Manager Briar Schoon.
“Food insecurity is a big problem for many of our students,” Schoon said. “The goal is that the garden will primarily serve students. It’s difficult to study when you’re hungry, and research has shown over and over that reducing food insecurity leads to higher retention rates.”
The food grown at the Cascade Learning Garden could be distributed to students by way of the campus’ Panther Pantry, or through a farmstand like the one at PCC’s Rock Creek Campus, Schoon said. The garden will model best practices for urban gardening, she said, which are designed to maximize food production in a relatively small space.
“The garden also serves as a great connection to our curricula,” she continued. “It’s another tool in the toolbox for our faculty, and it will serve as a welcoming space where students can feel connected to the campus and the college community.”
She added that the learning gardens at other PCC campuses are used to enhance the learning experience by instructors from across a range of academic disciplines, from biology and chemistry to poetry and creative writing.
“Our faculty are really excited to begin integrating the Learning Garden into their curricula,” said the garden’s supervisor, Alyson Lighthart, dean of the Math & Science Division at Cascade. “I’ve got instructors from Environmental Science, Biology, General Science — you name it — who can’t wait to get their students in there.”
The Cascade Learning Garden represents the completion of one of the goals of PCC’s overall Climate Action Plan, Schoon said, which is to create learning gardens at all four of the college’s comprehensive campuses. The Cascade garden joins those already in place at PCC’s Sylvania, Southeast, and Rock Creek campuses, as well as at the College’s Newberg Center. It is expected to be complete by mid- to late-2019.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Schoon said.