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Studies in plant sciences are grounded in concepts aimed to acquaint students with nature through experiential learning. Unfortunately, these concepts easily become diluted in traditional lecture and laboratory-based courses often disconnected from

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, distributors, designers, consultants, contractors, and end users worldwide. The course, HORT 550: Landscape Irrigation Systems, was introduced in the Fall 1999 with experiential learning as the core of the instructional format. An overarching goal of this

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Experiential learning is an integral part of agriculture education ( Cheek et al., 1993 ). This teaching approach, which emphasizes the role of experience in the knowledge acquisition process ( Kolb, 1984 ), is regularly used in horticulture courses

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schoolyard garden movement. Garden-based experiential learning activities are increasingly being used in schools to improve youth attitudes toward healthy foods and exercise, to help develop environmental awareness and enhance academic learning, and to

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Experiential learning has proven to be a valuable component of the Landscape Contracting curriculum in Penn State's Department of Horticulture. Implemented in four classes, two with design orientation and two with construction orientation, experiential learning has been utilized to stimulate and encourage critical thinking among students, both individually and in group situations. This teaching method serves to ignite student interest in further exploration of both concepts and process. Students involved in experiential projects have taken initiative to go beyond problem statement requirements to expand project scopes and elevate the quality of finished products. Indications of exceptional student motivation include requests by course enrollees for additional work to further develop design concepts, and organization of work sessions outside of class time to accommodate expanded work objectives. Successful integration of experiential learning into course outlines requires instructor skills that differ substantially from those employed in traditional lecture or studio formats.

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arguments for experiential learning is that it places students in real situations where they must not only call on lower-level concepts, but also engage in higher levels of learning as they “analyze what is going on in the game or exercise, synthesize

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. Therefore, our objectives were to increase the knowledge, skills, and abilities of growers using IPM in the southeastern United States and track adoption of specific practices by growers after 3 years. Materials and methods Three, 2-d hands-on experiential

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The term Ethnobotany describes the study of people's relationships to plants as foods, fibers, medicines, dyes, and tools throughout the ages. Using the student active technique of experiential learning, undergraduate students enrolled in landscape design and implementation classes at Clemson University planned and installed an Ethnobotany garden in partnership with the South Carolina Botanical Garden (SCBG) staff, volunteers, and Sprouting Wings children. Sprouting Wings is an after-school gardening and nature exploration program for under-served elementary school students. College students and faculty working on this service-learning project contributed over 1,000 hours to their community while learning more about both the art and the science of landscape design and implementation. Students enrolled in the landscape Implementation class were surveyed to evaluate their perceptions on a variety of possible learning outcomes for this class. Students indicated that their service learning experience with the Ethnobotany project allowed them to acquire and practice new skills, broadened their understanding of the surrounding community, increased their ability to work in real world situations, introduced new career possibilities, gave students a better understanding of their course work, increased their ability to work on a team, increased their knowledge of environmental sustainability, and allowed them to discover or develop leadership capabilities. In a survey question regarding preference for service learning rather than traditional classes, the majority of students prefer the service learning pedagogy. In addition, most students reported a high degree of initiative for this project in their reflections.

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, stressed the importance of hands-on learning experiences ( Trelstad, 1997 ). More recently, Knobloch (2003) integrated the philosophies of Dewey, Bailey, and other key scholars into what he refers to as the four pillars of experiential learning in

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New Mexico State University has designed a course in Organic Vegetable Production centered on a working CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm. This project, named “OASIS” (Organic Agriculture Students Inspiring Sustainability), was funded by a 3-year USDA Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) grant from 2002–05. The project has multiple objectives, including: to provide students with a multi-disciplinary experiential educational opportunity; to investigate the feasibility of small-scale organic drip-irrigated farming in the Chihuahuan desert; to demonstrate the CSA model to the local community; and to trial vegetable varieties. The class is co-listed in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business. Recently, the class was adopted in the Honors College and also became part of the General Education (G) program at NMSU. The course meets twice a week during two 2-h class periods. In-class time is divided between lectures, active learning projects, and work at the 0.26-ha field plot. The class content covered by the instructors includes organic regulations, history of CSAs and organic agriculture, evaluating the profitability of CSAs, the production of specific vegetable crops, planting and harvesting procedures, and postharvest requirements. Guest speakers are also part of the regular class structure and have discussed various topics such as beneficial insects, tillage, cover cropping, and weed management. The “living classroom” allows for these lectures to draw upon the experiences of students working on the farm. Although the course presents several challenges, the hands-on experience gained by the students is considered to be invaluable.

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