Living Sustainably: Gardening a Different Way Helps Students Learn

By Julie Clark, Hope College Upward Bound
Ninth-grade students from Hope College’s TRIO Upward Bound program did some hands-on learning this summer as they took care of a garden that was growing in an unusual place.

As a part of the program’s launch into project based learning, the students grew vegetables in two kiddie pools filled with dirt on Hope’s campus. Urban farming was the learning focus this summer for the ninth graders.
Students grew lettuce, regular and cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. They researched the basic care of each vegetable and learned which plants were weeds that needed to be pulled.
When a problem arose with the cucumber plant, they did further research to figure out what was wrong and how to treat it. As the cucumbers needed more space to grow, students were given stakes and twine, which they used to create their own trellises for the cucumber plants to climb.
As the cherry tomatoes grew, some of the teens enjoyed picking and eating them straight from the vine. Even a teacher grew to love cherry tomatoes through this experience. Some of the students had never grown vegetables before, so it was a new and interesting experience for them. One student commented on how much they enjoyed watching everything grow. Another said that they enjoyed the
garden even though they don’t like to eat a lot of vegetables.

At the end of the summer session, the students enjoyed the fruits of their labor as they were able to eat a salad using the vegetables that came from their garden. Through this experience, students learned that you can be creative when growing your own food and use just about anything that will hold soil.
This kind of project based learning was made possible through the college’s TRIO Upward Bound program. The federally funded college readiness program helps high school students learn the skills needed to succeed in high school and helps prepare them for college and college life.
During the academic year, students receive tutoring from Hope College students twice a week on campus. They also participate in Friday sessions once a month, participate in SAT prep workshops, and older students receive help applying for college.
During the summer session, students take six weeks of classes, explore possible careers and visit college campuses.
High school students from Holland, West Ottawa, and Fennville school districts can participate in the program at Hope. Students must apply and meet certain criteria. Go to: for more information.

 Julie Clark is a teacher at Hope College’s Upward Bound program.  This was her sixth summer with the program. Having always had a garden growing up, she enjoyed sharing her gardening knowledge with the students.

Gardening2.jpg or gardening1.jpg Students in Hope College’s Upward Bound summer program learned how easy urban gardening can be, using kiddie swimming pools.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme:
Community Knowledge: The collective knowledge and energy of the community is an incredible resource that must be channeled to where it is needed.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.