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Gatewood Gardens Helps Develop Leadership skills in Youth[Part_2]

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/gatewoodga_3154.mp3

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.

A parcel of land near Galena—18 acres to be exact—is home to a rich variety of indigenous plants. Millions of trilliums in a variety of colors grow there. So do some rare varieties of the shooting star, chinquapin oaks, wild ginger, several varieties of dogwood, rudabekia, boneset trees, milkweed and more.

Joe and Cathy Wolven are fortunate to call that land their home. But they want to share it with everyone. Five years ago, they welcomed with open arms botany students from Mike Collins biology classes at Reeds Spring High School. Joe Wolven says Collins learned about the Wolvens' plans to create a garden there from his granddaughter who had been in Collins' biology classes

The students cleared brush, vines and briars, built a bridge, dug out stumps and sampled and worked the soil

One of the first tasks the students were given was to identify what plants and trees were growing on the Wolvens' property. Mike Collins says, so far, they've identified more than 500 indigenous plants

While one might not immediately put botany and leadership together, the skills the students are learning thru various projects, including Gatewood Gardens, will stay with them throughout their lifetime, including any leadership roles they might take.

Toby Back is a senior at Reeds Spring High School and one of Mike Collins' students. He says one of the things he's developed during his time at Gatewood Gardens is a strong work ethic

Back plans to go to college after he graduates next spring and will study to become a fisheries biologist. He says the skills he's learned at Gatewood Gardens will help him as he goes on to higher education, a career and home ownership. Two of those skills are leadership and working as a team

Mike Collins has been teaching for 18 years. He went into teaching because he enjoys working with kids and teaching them how you can apply good science to the environment. When he learned about the effort by Joe and Cathy Wolven to create Gatewood Gardens he saw an opportunity to create for his students a whole new environment for learning

According to Collins, the number of topics that can be taught in a setting like Gatewood Gardens is endless

Students work at Gatewood Gardens in teams of about four. Mike Collins doesn't just throw students together on those teams. He takes care to make sure the students will get as much out of the experience as possible

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

Mike Collins says the students who are involved in the project at Gatewood Gardens and who take his biology classes aren't just learning skills they'll use now. They're developing attributes that will serve them well into the future

There are many other projects Mike Collins' botany students take part in besides Gatewood Gardens. He keeps them busy learning leadership skills even if they're not consciously aware that's what they're doing. They manage the outdoor classroom at Reeds Spring High School, which starts blooming in the spring and keeps on doing so until late fall. The goal is low-maintenance xeroscaping—gardening that uses the least amount of water possible. It's located just outside Collins' classroom

The greenhouse is used as an instructional classroom. The students can be proud of the fact that they have one of the premiere high school succulent collections in southwest Missouri

Reeds Spring High School is one of the producers for Herschend Family Entertainment. They grow many of the plants from seed. As the students walk thru Silver Dollar City they can see the results of their hard work

Every Spring, Reeds Spring High School hosts a sanctioned flower show sponsored by a local federated garden club. There's a youth and an adult division

As Collins watches each new class throughout the semester, he can see how much the students grow and develop new skills. He hopes someday when they're on their own they'll be leaders in the effort to protect our natural resources

Collins says the long-term goal is to develop students who are stewards of the environment.

This program is available on the web at ksmu.org. For KSMU and the SOC Leadership series, I'm Michele Skalicky.