As part of the 3rd year Theory and Philosophy in Landscape module, Andy Laird set up a research exercise to explore the effects that ‘connecting and interacting with nature’ had on peoples’ emotional and psychological wellbeing. Originally just four or five students expressed an interest in participating, but the radiant sunshine that afternoon tempted about fifteen volunteers to participate. Andy ran a short questionnaire before and after the exercise to do the evaluation.
Wielding their trowels and a box of snowdrops each, they spread out in the woodland garden to extend the existing drifts of snowdrops, supported by Jane Fitzgerald White, the landscape & horticultural technician. See Jane’s blog ‘The Art of Noticing’ for more details. Jane writes:
“One of the biggest weaknesses I have noticed amongst qualified landscape architects is a limited knowledge of plants, with practices often sticking to a limited palette of tried and tested species. One of the aims of the landscape architecture course at the university is to develop this knowledge gap, and how better than getting students to leave the studio, abandon their laptops and venture outside for a little horticultural exercise.
True, some of the volunteers seemed unfamiliar with snowdrops in their non-flowering state, and a few admitted to never having dug a hole or gardened before, but the whole group buoyantly embraced the exercise and happily departed off into the woodland.
The exercise commenced with a survey to assess how the students each felt before they began the activity. The questions were wide ranging, rated on a scale of 1 to 10, and included queries such as”How happy do you feel?” and “How attractive do you feel?”.
I followed the questionnaire up with a few facts about Galanthus nivalis, it’s origins, flowering time and a short demonstration of how to plant the bulbs. Then the fun and hilarity began!
The exercise concluded with each student answering the same survey questions for a second time to ascertain if the hour of community gardening had effected them in any manner and, if so, to what extent. Their enthusiasm was contagious, with most of the students expressing how much they had enjoyed the exercise and a bevy of requests to set up a university gardening club for next semester as an antidote to the stress of academic rigour. Two of the students even volunteered a month each of their time to assist me in the garden as a means of enriching their plant knowledge, and as the students returned to the studio and their laptops, they did son with broad smiles on each and every sun kissed face!”
All the fantastic photos used here were taken by Jane and can be viewed on her blog.