Seventeen students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Ferrum College donated nearly $5,600 in labor to their school as part of a three-week class focused on campus beautification and renovation this past spring.

Delia Heck, a Ferrum College professor of environmental science, and Bob Pohlad, a professor emeritus of biology and horticulture, led the three-week Environmental Planning and Development (EPD-202) Experiential Term (E-Term). The students built, repaired and beautified three sites on campus.

“This class was an excellent opportunity for our students to participate in experiential learning at its best,” Heck said. “They were able to learn about concepts of sustainability, engage in the work of repairing, building, and creating garden and riparian spaces, and develop a sense of pride in their efforts, their project and the campus.”

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For the first four days of the E-Term, the students assessed the sites. These included a memorial bench honoring Pohlad’s wife, the late Professor Emerita of Biology and Environmental Science Carolyn Thomas, and the riparian buffer zone and garden, all at Adams Lake on the Ferrum campus; the conifer garden and the Jess Goode memorial garden, both in the campus community arboretum area; and the pond and stream feature as well as the wedding gazebo and garden, also in the arboretum area.

Students started out putting thought into lighting and electricity, hardscapes, soil types and plant design.

The rest of the E-Term was spent in about 200 hours of field work. After the work was complete, they presented to the community their processes, before-and-after photos, maintenance plans, next steps, and donation opportunities. A tour of the sites followed.

“After all these years of teaching, it still amazes me how well the students respond to the opportunities of experiential learning,” Pohlad said. “I saw the same enthusiasm and pride in their work this year as I saw over the last 20 years. By doing these types of projects, each student leaves a legacy for future students to learn from and a place to honor the memories of those who have been an important part of our Ferrum community family. Their efforts and comments on work around Carolyn’s bench were especially touching to me.”

“This E-Term was lots of fun, lots of hard work, sweat and tears, but, overall, it was rewarding,” said rising senior Lauren Ries. “We took a project that had been going on for over 20 years—worked on by many Ferrum students, faculty and staff—and now we get to add our names to that legacy.”

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“We walked into E-Term not knowing much about the projects, but we walked away knowing more about landscaping, hard work and ourselves,” Ries added. “And we have tons of good memories. Hard work does pay off!”

Heck said the students “discovered and recovered hidden treasures while creating their own. They built memories, skills and connections that will last a lifetime.”

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Ferrum College website.

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