October 26, 2012
On a typical day, Dr. Karen Klaiber Hersch’s students might dig into a deep discussion about Petronius’ Satyricon or Virgil’s Aenied.
October 20, however, was not a typical day for the Temple chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, the National Classics Honor Society, as they found themselves instead digging into the dirt beneath a colorful fall canopy of trees in Temple University Ambler’s Woodland Garden. Their service project to remove invasive English Ivy proved a fitting beginning to Temple University’s Sustainability Week.
“Over the summer, my 6-year-old daughter Abigail and I took part in a native planting project at our local rec center. I thought it was the best thing in the world — working together to make the planet better — and wanted to bring that sort of experience back to Temple,” said Hersch, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Latin in Temple’s Department of Greek and Roman Classics. “I was able to connect with Kathleen Grady in the Office of Sustainability who in turn got me in touch with Anne Brennan (Horticulture Supervisor in the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University). Right from the start, everyone was so enthusiastic about the project — at every level everyone worked to make this project happen.”
She, seven students and visiting Assistant Professor Dr. Jennifer Gerrish, were provided with the tools and knowledge by Brennan to make a positive impact in the Woodland Garden. The group — who put in a good day’s work clearing ivy and planting native species, talking about classics all the while — were also provided with a full tour of the Ambler Arboretum’s diverse gardens.
While on the surface Latin and Greek and the study of Roman and Greek culture combined with horticulture might seem to be a decidedly “outside the box” cross-disciplinary partnership, Hersch sees deep rooted connections between what her students are learning in the classroom and the experiences they enjoyed in the gardens.
“There is so much written in ancient literature about nature, about working the land,” she said. “Virgil wrote the Eclogues entirely about farming. He wrote ‘Your descendants will gather your fruits,’ — from your efforts, your descendants will reap the good of the earth. That absolutely connects to everything we are learning.”
Hersch said she and her students aren’t done with their patch of the Woodland Garden, which they’ve named “Nemus Bacchi,” or the Grove of Bacchus.
“We’d really like to adopt it and help maintain it. The students are very enthusiastic about it,” she said. “Temple is so fortunate that Ambler is a part of us, that these experiences are available to everyone.”
During Sustainability Week on October 25, student and faculty volunteers from theDepartment of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture returned to the Woodland Garden to continue where Eta Sigma Phi began. More than a dozen volunteers took part in the Pi Alpha Xi (the national horticulture honor society) sponsored Sustainability Action Day.
“The Woodland Garden is an integral part of our campus — it was originally planted by the students of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women during the 1920s. Students and staff have begun the long process of removing the English Ivy that has spread throughout the garden and we’ve made good progress today,” said Assistant Professor of Horticulture Dr. Sasha Eisenman who is the advisor for Pi Alpha Xi. “By re-planting with native species, it will be harder for English Ivy to return. The new plantings will also give the Woodland Garden more biodiversity and will increase the teaching collection.”
Eisenman said volunteers, in addition to removing the English Ivy, were also planting species native to the region, such as American dogwood, witch hazel, spice bush and hornbeam.
“We want to get rid of the invasives to help build habitat and a regular food supply for the animals and plants that should be here,” said Horticulture junior Terry Cinque. “Sustainability Week is all about raising awareness and actually coming out here and taking part in a project like this is a wonderful way to promote environmental education.”
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