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Gatewood Gardens Helps Develop Leadership skills in Youth[Part_1]

Mike Collins' botany students at Reeds Spring High School are learning a variety of skills, including leadership, by taking their education outside the classroom. Gatewood Gardens has been a project of theirs for five years. Michele Skalicky reports.

Botany students at Reeds Spring High School have been hard at work for the last five years helping develop a non-profit garden near Galena.

The garden, on 18 acres owned by Joe and Cathy Wolven, isn't just a place where a variety of native plants and trees—some rare—thrives, it's also a place where young minds grow and mature as they are exposed to a variety of new skills. It's a place where leadership and teamwork are fostered as students work together to accomplish things that they can be proud of.

Toby Back is one of those students. The Reeds Spring High School senior helped out at Gatewood Gardens last year. About once a week, he helped clear the trails, hauled rocks in to be placed along trail edges and re-mulched the walking paths.

He learned to identify plants, and he developed a strong work ethic

While the classroom is a great environment for learning all kinds of information, applying that information outside of the classroom takes that education even further. That's what Gatewood Gardens allows students to do. Back says his experience there has complemented the education he's received at his high school

Toby Back plans to go to college after he graduates next spring and will study to become a fisheries biologist. He says he'll take what he's learned with him when he goes out into the world on his own—when he goes to college, starts a career and buys a home. Two major skills he's developed during his time spent at Gatewood Garden, he says, are leadership and working as a team

Mike Collins is Toby Back's teacher and a favorite teacher of many of Back's classmates and others who have gone before them. When he learned about the effort by Joe and Cathy Wolven to create a garden, he saw an opportunity to create for his students a whole new environment for learning

One of the tasks the students were given five years ago as they began to work to create Gatewood Gardens was plant identification. Collins says, so far, they've identified more than 500 indigenous plants

Mike Collins believes a teacher can make curriculum rigorous and challenging and can push students out of their comfort zones in the classroom. But he also values the opportunity to do more

As Collins watches each new class work at Gatewood Gardens, he sees the growth and development of skills that occurs. He hopes that someday, when the students are on their own, they'll be leaders in the effort to protect our natural resources using the information they've obtained

Mike Collins says the long-term goal is to develop citizens who are stewards of the environment

Joe and Catchy Wolven play a large role in helping students appreciate and care for the Ozarks' natural resources. Both master gardeners, Joe says they not only teach students to identify the plants that grow in their garden, they also serve as surrogate grandparents to the kids

Students who are no longer in Mike Collins' biology classes still return to Gatewood Gardens, either to enjoy the solitude or to visit with the Wolvens

Joe Wolven feels a sense of pride when he thinks about how much Gatewood Gardens means to the students who come to work there. Collins not only brings out his A students to the Wolven's property, but also special needs kids, and Joe Wolven says it's rewarding to see what they accomplish

Wolven says he sees students develop self-value, self-assurance and a belief in themselves

This afternoon at 4:36 hear more from Reeds Spring biology teacher Mike Collins and learn more about Gatewood Gardens and its part in helping develop leadership skills in area young people as a Sense of Community continues.

This program is available on the web at For KSMU, I'm Michele Skalicky.