Published on 04/14/05

UGA students take community service a step further

By Sydne Moody
University of Georgia

A home is more than a house, of course. The way some University of Georgia horticulture students see it, even a house is more than a house.

About 40 students in a UGA residential landscape management design class used their skills to add more value to some homes renovated in an annual Athens, Ga., community service program.

"Hands On" Horticulture

Hands On Athens is an Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation program in which groups of area volunteers get together one weekend each year to repair homes in historic but low-income neighborhoods.

The UGA Hands On Athens Landscape Renovation Project reworked the landscapes of four of the 10 homes in the larger program.

As it turned out, the April 1-3 event came on "the worst weekend for landscaping," said David Berle, the UGA horticulture professor whose class took on the project. Heavy Friday rains and high Saturday winds made the work more challenging than it might have been.

Student-designed landscapes

Berle had already divided his class of sophomores, juniors and seniors into four 10-student teams. Each person had designed a plan for the landscape, and Berle had chosen the best four plans and assigned them to teams. The four designers of the best plans were the group leaders.

Including preparing the plans, the class put three weeks of work into the project. But the students could easily see the value of their work in the yards they landscaped.

"The value (of a home) increases an average of 10 percent with landscape design," Berle said. Each plan in the project would have cost $3,000 to $5,000 had a landscaper been paid to do the work.

Homeowner input

The residents of the four homes were able to choose the colors of flowers and plants. Having guidelines and a customer to work for gave the students a real-world learning experience.

"The best part was getting out there and actually seeing your work implemented," said Chad Till, a senior from Watkinsville, Ga., who is majoring in landscape architecture. "A lot of the time you design plans and never see what goes right or wrong."

The project got its start through a Scholarship of Engagement Grant from the UGA vice president for public service and outreach. Grant funds provided a trailer and tools that will be used in future classes.

Berle and the students contacted nurseries and businesses for donations of plants, bricks and other needs. He plans to make the UGA Hands On Athens Landscape Project an annual assignment for his class.

Sydne Moody is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.