When the pandemic hit, we all were affected in different ways.  Students who remained on campus were forced into a more isolated existence.  Preschoolers at the Child Development Lab were temporarily kept from learning together.  And yet, green shoots emerge from this period of isolation.  The Grow2Give program is an example of that.

Preschool students benefit from exposure to plants and the growth cycle.  Sustainable education for pre-school children can also teach empathy via care for plants.  Studies have shown that care for plants can increase mental health and well-being.

Inspired by the sustainability curriculum, “Nature Explore” offered by the Child Development Lab, Jon Moore, coordinator of OPIM Innovate, envisioned the Grow2Give program as a means to bring people together.  Our “littlest Huskies” would grow plants to be given away as gifts to undergraduate students, and ideally, we all could learn about how caring for plants could benefit our mental health.

Once supplies were dropped off, the teachers at the CDL got the process started by helping the children individually paint the 2” pots that would hold each plant. Although a fun activity, the importance of creating empathy and the idea that the children were making these to give to others was focused on.

Meanwhile, advice on what to grow came from students in the Horticulture Club. Since many students have cats in the dorm (or at home) an

d because of its fast growing nature, we chose “catgrass” as one of the plants, but also picked lemongrass and a variety of mints for the first planting.  Rosemary and lavender were also added to the list but with the knowledge that these had a much longer growing period.

With pots painted and seed, soil, and grow stations set up, again led by their teachers, the kids were ready to plant. Under the leadership of head teachers Debbie Muro and Kelly Aston, (most) of the plants germinated and have been growing just in time for distribution. Although this Spring was the first pilot for the logistic side of the project, we plan to continue creating a network of stakeholders who want to see this project grow. In the past few months, Jon Moore has been meeting with other groups at the the University to coordinate distribution and hopefully, to enable the study and documentation of the beneficial effects on mental health that can be achieved by caring for plants.  Colleen Atkinson and Karen McComb from Student Health and Wellness have been involved, along with Melissa Bray and Emily Winter from the Ed Psych department.  Amy Crim from Residential Life Education has offered ideas on how we might distribute the plants that are currently being grown.

As Spring arrives, our plants are coming soon to a dorm near you!  If you receive a plant and want some tips on your specific plants care, check out the embedded links below.  If you would like to know more about the program or would like to be involved, please contact Jon Moore at the OPIM Innovate Lab to learn more. –

-Nick Brown, graduate assistant and MBA student ‘22