University Pilot Program a Huge Success

by Linda Coors on April 16, 2014

Come Alive Outside Design Challenge StudentsOn March 19th, students from the landscape and horticulture departments of four colleges from around the country presented the designs that they created through the Come Alive Outside Design Challenge to a panel of professional judges and an audience of their peers at the Professional Landcare Network’s Student Career Days in Fort Collins, Colorado. As a pilot program sponsored by John Deere, the Come Alive Outside Design Challenge was embraced by four schools: Oklahoma State, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Hinds Community College and North Carolina State. The presentation of the designs was the culmination of a three-month process through which the college students worked closely with high school and elementary students to design an outdoor learning environment that creates the opportunity for them to interact with and learn from a natural space.

The colleges were charged with five major design criteria to accomplish through the Challenge:

  1. Encourage interaction with the space using all five senses;
  2. Reuse or upcycle materials in an innovative and cost-effective way;
  3. Create a Certified Wildlife Habit in accordance with the standards laid out by the National Wildlife Federation;
  4. Gain and integrate input from the children into the design; and
  5. Create a functional space for teachers to use with their classes.

Click here to see some of the videos.

As we watched the four schools present videos and working drawings of their plans for a Come Alive Outside space, it was evident that they not only understood the objectives of helping children interact with nature, but students from each of the four schools involved in the Design Challenge made it clear they are committed to raising the funds necessary to build out the designs that they have created with their younger colleagues. Reese Nelson, Professor of Horticulture at BYU-Idaho, said, “The Come Alive Outside Design Challenge helped everyone involved understand and communicate why nature is important to children. This, in turn, will help students become better at communicating those benefits to administrators, politicians and decision makers.”

One of Dr. Nelson’s students explained the unique opportunities the Design Challenge offered. Jillian Foss shared, “I really loved this project because it helped us think from a whole new perspective. As landscape design students, we are used to thinking about people’s landscapes at their homes and thinking from an adult perspective. It was really great to look at it from the view of a child and to really think about what they would want, how they could use all of their senses and how they could really feel like they are out in nature and on the playground at the same time.”

“The Come Alive Outside Design Challenge was an exciting experience for our students at Hinds Community College to be involved in,” said Landscape Management Department Chair Martha Hill. “The process of choosing a project and coordinating with the high school student body and the FFA chapter presented valuable lessons in beginning and facilitating the first steps of a project of this nature. The most exciting part of the entire process for the landscape management students at Hinds Community College was the design charrette with professional landscape architects. The energy that was generated during the day’s events made our students buy into the project and take an interest in how the whole design process works. Students were fascinated by how the landscape architects thought, processed the information about the site, formulated design ideas, and came up with a solution to the project’s challenges.

“The landscape architects had not visited the site of our project, so they relied on the students who had to be their eyes. This engaged not only the Hinds Community College landscape students but also the high school FFA students who participated in the charrette. We look forward to progressing on the project and presenting our solution to the high school students, faculty, school district administrations, and parents.”

Everyone fortunate enough to witness the presentations of these future leaders realized one very important thing last week. The youth, from elementary to high school to college students are all energized and ready to COME ALIVE OUTSIDE. It is our job to support their efforts and the battle cry is true: “EVERYBODY WINS WHEN SOMEBODY GOES OUTSIDE!”

Click here to see some of the videos.

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