Students partner with local school to create learning gardens for children

Apr 04, 2013

North Central College’s student organization Enactus is partnering with employee volunteers at Lowe’s Naperville home improvement retail store to create learning gardens for a community childhood center.

Students in North Central’s Enactus (formerly SIFE), which develops projects and educates people about free enterprise, have been working with Ann Reid Early Childhood Center in the Naperville Community Unit School District 203. The school serves children ages 3 to 5 and provides a blended environment with students of varying abilities, including at-risk and specials needs children.  

School administrators wanted to create a summer-long learning program, bringing together all children in the community with the goal to encourage social awareness, diversity education and stronger community ties.  

North Central’s Enactus students are helping the school meet this goal by creating learning gardens, including vegetable gardens, a sensory garden and a butterfly garden on Ann Reid’s school property on South Naper Boulevard. Each garden will be created organically under the direction of a Lowe’s gardening expert and North Central faculty members with gardening experience. Teachers at the school also will provide input so the gardens provide the optimum learning experience.

Children from the community will be involved in elementary design, building, planting and harvesting of the gardens. Enactus students and teachers at Ann Reid will create learning materials to accompany the projects and help teach the children and adults in the community how to harvest and dry seeds from plants. Those seeds will be put into all-inclusive, start-your-own-garden boxes that will be available for purchase.

Enactus students plan to start clearing land for the gardens in April, depending on weather conditions. Employee volunteers from Lowe’s and students from the community will join the project, helping with design, building and planting by the end of May.  

Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation provided a grant to help cover related costs for materials for the garden project. In spring 2012, Lowe’s and North Central’s Enactus partnered on their first joint project to create a self-sustaining, organic garden for immigrant residents associated with the nonprofit Emmanuel House CDC in Aurora, Ill. (above photo from this project).

North Central College’s award-winning Enactus chapter was established in 1987 to educate others how the free enterprise system works. Projects include a social justice component and have ranged from helping entrepreneurs from the United States and around the world become economically self-sustainable to educating high school students on the basics of running a business. Enactus has also developed its own business known as NCC’s Best, which has transformed into a free and direct trade business promoting wares produced in seven countries by entrepreneurs striving to make the free enterprise system work.