“Enrolling in the UF Art Education Master’s program was the best decision I ever made.”
Alumna Natalie Hyder (MA Art Education ‘16) was put in charge of the wellness committee at the elementary school in Tallahassee where she teaches, with the responsibility of organizing a garden day. In previous years, the school created gardens that only lasted a few months. She wanted to help students create a garden that would last for years and be a continuous teaching resource for the school.
Leon County provided Hyder with a grant and she attended a garden training through the University of Florida extension office in Tallahassee. She was put in contact with the Damayan Garden Project who brought out volunteers to help her organize the garden so it could be built in phases and be added onto each year.
Hyder would not have known how to find the appropriate contacts and carry out a successful community project without the UF Art Education Master’s program.
“With every class that I took at UF, I gained more skills till I eventually was comfortable enough to plan an event for my school,” Hyder said. “I was able to go to my administration with a plan, and show them why it was important to have a garden at our school.”
In January, each classroom teacher began growing plants in their classroom from seeds. Each student planted a seed, which they will watch germinate and grow in the classroom. In another few weeks, each class will go out and plant their vegetables in raised beds built by Hyder and her volunteers. Hyder hopes by the end of the year, they will harvest the garden and the students will get to taste the fruits and vegetables they grew.
This was not the first sustainability art project that Hyder worked on with elementary students. As a part of her capstone project at UF, her fifth grade students worked in groups to make garden poetry stones. The poems on the stones related to sustainability, and they became a piece of public art for a community rain garden.
She also organized an art walk for her school where they walked two miles and viewed public art in their community. One of the pieces they viewed were the poetry stones Hyder’s fifth graders made. Their poetry stones are now a registered piece of art in Tallahassee’s public art directory. Hyder said the students and parents still talk about how much they loved seeing their community in a new way and seeing public art they created.
“I want to teach my students holistically so they are able to make connections to their artwork in many areas of their life,” Hyder said. “This program gave me the skills I needed...to be a successful edu-Gator!”