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Community Leadership Class Sows Seeds

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Community Leadership Class Sows Seeds
Julienne Guyette (in ball cap), who teaches in the culinary arts and nutrition program at the Thompson School of Applied Science, supervises kids as they fill wheelbarrows with compost. Marj Foote photo.

On a recent Friday, while rain threatened overhead and the temperature hovered around 45 degrees, a team of UNH students and a group of school children planted a garden.

They started with what would become the raised beds, framing them with thick slabs of lumber cut at the UNH sawmill. Then they loaded wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with coffee-colored compost from a huge pile nearby, shaping the soil into soft mounds within the frames. And then, the planting began.

The children attend the Somersworth Youth Safe Haven, an after-school program housed at the Albert J. Nadeau Apartment Complex in Somersworth, where the garden is located. The UNH students are community leadership and communication majors taking Kate Hanson's "Managing Change and Conflict in Communities" class.

Hanson co-founded the Thompson School of Applied Science's community leadership program, shaped around the idea that bringing people together can make a difference. The garden project exemplifies that concept.

"It's all about working in the community," Hanson says. "This gives students the chance to take what they've learned into the real world."

Community Leadership Class Sows Seeds
Kate Hanson, who co-founded the Thompson School of Applied Science's community leadership program, proposed the garden project to her students.

The "Plant for Growth" project had help getting off the ground from several UNH groups, including Aspiring Hands, a student volunteer organization launched at UNH, the dietetic and the forestry programs at the Thompson School, the Organic Gardening Club, Cooperative Extension, the Office of Sustainability, and the Jessie Doe and Williamson residence halls.

Once the garden has taken root, it will become an ongoing project for the Somersworth Youth Safe Haven program, and apartment complex residents who will help maintain the plot. And when the lettuce, carrots, green beans, pumpkins, zucchini, radishes, tomatoes and herbs are ready to be harvested, they will all be involved in the picking.

"It's really important for kids to be in touch with the earth and know where their food comes from," says Julienne Guyette, who teaches in the culinary arts and nutrition program at the Thompson School.

A master gardener, Guyette worked with the children before the planting even began, talking to them about nutrition and healthy eating when they visited UNH's organic garden.

"They helped hill up the soil," Guyette says. "Hopefully being involved like this will instill in them a respect for the Earth and the environment. They understand now a little better what it takes to grow food."

To buy gardening tools for the project, students held fundraisers, selling packages of seeds that the children had decorated, and raising (at last count) more than $200. The hope is to raise enough money to buy a shed to leave at the housing complex where the tools can be stored.

"This is about more than putting the seeds in the ground," says UNH senior Andy Schafer. "It's so great to be able to put our education into action. And there's no better feeling than working with the kids. Being part of something bigger than us; it goes beyond the classroom."