Learning drives new community garden at MU

Monday, March 26, 2012 | 4:01 p.m. CDT; updated 10:32 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 27, 2012

*UPDATE: This story has been updated to include information about the Child Development Lab's connection with the College of Human Environmental Sciences at MU.
** An earlier version of this story indicated a ground-breaking event would take place on Friday. However, garden preparations are planned instead.

COLUMBIA — At the future site of MU’s first campus community garden, a ladybug slowly crawls from under Chris Murakami’s leg. As he explains the benefits of ladybugs in gardens, he calls the beetle's appearance "a sign of good luck."

The Child Development Lab, a day care center near Memorial Union that is also a learning incubator for undergraduates in various degree programs from education to nutritional sciences, will be the primary user of the MU Children’s Learning Garden south of the greenhouse near Curtis Hall. *The lab is part of the department of human development and family studies within the College of Human Environmental Sciences at MU.


Volunteers are invited for a workday on April 5 from 3 to 5 p.m. on the southern side of Curtis Hall.

“I think we live in an industrialized food society. That has had an impact on the way we live our lives and our relationship with food, and the way we educate our children,” Murakami said.

An informal coalition of students and faculty interested in community gardens on campus, spearheaded by Murakami, gathers at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Room 105, Gentry Hall, to cultivate interest in community gardens on campus.

"It's very easy to say we care, but too easy to not take action," Murakami said.

Members of Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will join Murakami and some children from the Child Development Lab to do some garden work* on Friday. They will be building raised beds and moving soil on a small garden plot close to the larger site.

Work on the larger garden will begin after a bit more planning and fundraising occurs to pay for the cost of building and materials, which has not been finalized.

Murakami, a doctoral student studying science education, has been working with MU students, faculty, staff and administrators to establish a community garden on campus for personal as well as academic reasons.

Murakami said he believes connecting with nature and growing food are important for students and children.

Including children in gardening is just one mission of this garden. Murakami worked for a year and a half to put his idea into a plan approved by Campus Facilities and the Office of Sustainability.

Jessie Bradley, director of the Child Development Lab, sees the importance in helping children understand the value of natural foods and where food comes from at an early age. Children ages 2 1/2 to 5 will use the garden the most. She talked about instilling sensory memories in children, like the smells and textures of plants and digging in the soil.

“There’s less and less natural smells; now people’s memories are based on plastic, like opening the wrapping of a Barbie doll,” Bradley said. “The early childhood years are the foundation for their future learning. The more you expose children to, they will have a stronger foundation to build upon.”

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