March 21, 2018
Creating a community garden near the Tempe Academy for International Studies (TAIS) starts off like many other projects: with the acquisition of funding. Students in the Project Based Modular Learning (ProMod) sustainability program decided to take a more creative approach.
ProMod is a hands-on learning approach that helps streamline student majors into their introductory classes at ASU. Students involved can connect their classroom and project experience to real world sustainability problems while learning the entry level skills required for their major.
The community garden for TAIS, and its funding and planning, have been underway since the project started with the freshman ProMod cohort of 2015, and it is still continuing to this day. Each cohort since then has contributed to the community garden planning by building on the work of previous cohorts. The current cohort is working off the work of their predecessors, and they hope that in the years to come there is just as much growth and evolution as there has been in the project so far.
This cohort’s approach was called “The Tempe Bazaar Project” by its partners and stakeholders. A long row of tents sold gently used goods collected by the organizers, and the profits collected will help fund the community garden. The project “was developed with the intention of supplying funding to TAIS so that they could push forward on designing and implementing their multipurpose outdoor garden space, which would provide the students with an active outdoor science classroom and relaxation space,” according to sustainability undergrad Rett Evans.
ASU students are not the only stakeholders in this project. Evans continues, “Our ASU ProMod team partnered with the Tempe Academy of International Studies Parent Teacher Board to collaborate on the development…of a multipurpose outdoor space at the school. The ProMod students held a sort of consultant/event planner role and the PTO was the client enlisting our help to pursue their goals.”
That is quite a bit of responsibility for students, and as Elyse Kats, another ProMod student involved said, “We all had the same common goal, but in order to reach it we had to work well together, which meant we had to be good at communicating with each other.”
Kats was in charge of organizing volunteers and reasoned that this project is not only benefiting the community but the students involved as well. ProMod students are gaining not only knowledge in their chosen field and academic credit for the work, but they are assisting the community in something that many schools crave: an outdoor space that is conducive to learning and growing.
The next steps for the garden, according to Evans and Kats, include developing a tangible design plan for the garden and outdoor learning spaces, expanding on the newly raised funding, and budgeting for physical construction of the space.
Students in the ProMod courses come up with ideas and execute them on their own and as a team, but they admit they wouldn’t be able to solve the problems that arise were it not for their advisors and mentors.
Through this entire process the group is lead by their advisor and mentor, Chris Robinson. Robinson sees his role as a compass but stops himself short of being his students’ map. His goal is to provide clear guidance on which direction his students need to be going in and to give them any specific instructions to help them get there. ProMod is designed to be student lead, and the students’ aim is to learn through their mistakes and from forging their own path.
Robinson says another unique quality of this project is the high turnover of the students under his watchful gaze, which creates its own set of pros and cons. There are always students graduating and new students being added into the mix. This creates a hub of new ideas that one would not have the access to without the high turnover rate of the project members; however, this also creates the need for students to have to play “catch-up” when they first join the project. This also demonstrates the realistic problems that project leads face in the real-world.
As Robinson has said, “no matter the specific outcomes, their increased understanding and appreciation of how to apply their abilities and skills as well as how they can improve is what I find the most significant.”
Interested in joining ProMod? View upcoming project-based courses for Fall 2018.