Growing and Harvesting Success An on-campus garden helps university clinic clients learn to generalize their new skills. Academic Edge
Free
Academic Edge  |   May 01, 2016
Growing and Harvesting Success
Author Notes
  • Colette Edwards, MA, CCC-SLP, is an associate professor and clinical educator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has also worked in the school setting and is active with the North Carolina Speech, Hearing and Language Association and its association of supervisors. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 11, Administration and Supervision; and 16, School-Based Issues. cmedwar2@uncg.edu
    Colette Edwards, MA, CCC-SLP, is an associate professor and clinical educator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has also worked in the school setting and is active with the North Carolina Speech, Hearing and Language Association and its association of supervisors. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 11, Administration and Supervision; and 16, School-Based Issues. cmedwar2@uncg.edu×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   May 01, 2016
Growing and Harvesting Success
The ASHA Leader, May 2016, Vol. 21, 38-39. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.21052016.38
The ASHA Leader, May 2016, Vol. 21, 38-39. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.21052016.38
We’ve all been there: Your client aces assessments in the treatment room, but has a hard time using the skills he’s developed in real-life situations. We know that practicing with clients outside of the therapeutic environment can result in more meaningful outcomes—especially for those with severe communication difficulties—but we may not have access to appropriate functional, naturalistic settings in which to do so.
At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), a colleague and I took advantage of an existing university program—a community garden—to extend treatment into a new setting.
Germinating an idea
At lunchtime most days, colleague Lyn Mankoff and I take a walk to ready ourselves for the afternoon barrage of supervisory responsibilities. (Mankoff is a communication sciences and disorders associate professor and externship coordinator.) On one of these walks a little more than a year ago, we discovered the university’s community garden and decided to apply for a plot and participate in the university’s sustainability vision.
As we talked about our garden plans, we realized we could incorporate client and community engagement by using the garden to work on language and literacy goals with children and adults.
Lyn and I are gardeners, and we had read many articles about the benefits of gardening for individuals with disabilities. We thought incorporating the garden could provide an opportunity for clients to read about plants and insects, participate in sustainability and conservation activities, research the best plants for the season, create a design for the garden, and write about their experiences.

We realized we could incorporate client and community engagement by using the garden to work on language and literacy goals with children and adults.

Graduate clinicians (from left) Katie Romberger, Monique Goring and Anne Venable harvest the efforts of clients, faculty and students from the speech and hearing center at the University of North Caroliina at Greensboro.
Nurturing the blossom
It took careful planning to get from the idea to the reality. At UNCG, it took six distinct steps.
  1. Get permission from the department chair. Ours not only loved the idea, but also encouraged faculty and staff to participate.

  2. Submit an application for a raised bed plot. We needed to outline our goals for the garden, how we would achieve the goals, and when we would achieve them.

  3. Recruit community volunteers, students and faculty to weed the 4-by-8 bed and prepare it with fresh topsoil and compost. Our volunteers included a client’s parent and my father (92 years old!) and husband. The loam, topsoil, mulch and tools are provided by the campus sustainability committee. Trash containers and a mulching bed are close by, along with tables and benches that facilitate lectures, group discussions and demonstrations regarding recycling and conservation.

  4. Research which plants thrive in your area and the sun/shade ratio of the plot. One of our clients, a 10-year-old second-grader with articulation and language-literacy difficulties, read about plants that would thrive during the spring season and made planting suggestions. On his second visit he discussed the insects found in the garden and planted marigolds to protect the future vegetable plants from insects.

  5. Develop the design for the garden with input from clients, faculty and staff. To add a variety of color and textures, we included vegetables (okra, tomatoes, onions, peppers, radishes, lettuce), herbs (basil, marjoram, thyme) and decorative plants (lamb’s ears and sunflowers). Grad students and faculty actually planted the garden, as the clinic closes at the end of April.

  6. Maintain the garden. We were a bit surprised by our graduate students’ interest in and enthusiasm for watering, weeding and collecting produce. This year, we plan to include more clients in the process.

The client who planted the marigolds sat at a table near the garden and wrote about his experiences. His enthusiasm continued to grow, and he created his own garden at home.

Harvesting the benefits
As supervisors, we realized that a simple idea can produce a harvest of learning outcomes related to collaboration, sustainability, conservation and intervention. The size of our “harvest” exceeded our expectations. Some highlights:
  • One child painted the department’s name on a rock, identifying which department was caring for the raised bed. She earned this reward after describing pictures of the gardening process, and used the garden picture book to retell the correct sequence of events.

  • The client who planted the marigolds sat at a table near the garden and wrote about his experiences. His enthusiasm continued to grow, and he created his own garden at home.

  • Many of our older clients could not manage the walk to the garden, so we brought vegetables and herbs to them and talked about the gardening process. For our clients with stroke and traumatic brain injury, the produce elicited memories of times they had gardened, facilitating their language and recall. They looked at the pictures of the garden and touched, tasted and described the fresh and dried harvest.

  • We discussed sustainability and conservation with the graduate students and with clients at the level that they could understand. We have a bulletin board that addresses these issues with garden pictures for reinforcing the concepts.

  • We offered some of the produce to our international graduate students, who often have limited financial resources.

  • A group of graduate students applied for a plot so that they could create a “sensory” garden for clients.

  • Graduate students also compiled a picture book to highlight the different gardening stages, with captions written by clients.

We’re excited about the garden—we renewed the contract for two plots for next year and will continue to find ways to use them with clients.
There are, however, some challenges. For some of our older clients, participating is difficult—not only is the garden too far away for them to walk, but the plot is not accessible and the beds are too low for them to plant. The older adults particularly like to discuss gardening, and we’re considering building a planting table so they can participate.
We want to involve more members of the community and other departments in the effort. Our grad students are the most involved in and excited about the gardens, and they love to take a break from their studies and walk with faculty members to work on the garden for a half an hour a couple of times a week. Faculty enjoy the time with the students as well. But we need to recruit more volunteers to keep it going.
Perhaps one day we’ll have a smaller version of the garden closer to the Speech and Hearing Center designed to overcome many of these challenges, while continuing to help our clients use their communication skills in natural settings.
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
May 2016
Volume 21, Issue 5