Growing Leaders and Learners

Growing Leaders and Learners

Success of Annual Baylor Traditions Ornament Project Benefits Student Initiatives Otherwise Unfunded

At Baylor, an annual Christmas ornament project translates into research and service opportunities for undergraduate students.

The Baylor Family provided more than $65,000 in support of interdisciplinary research through the 2019 Baylor Christmas ornament sale proceeds.

Diana R. Garland School of Social Work Assistant Professor Stephanie Boddie, Ph.D., and School of Engineering and Computer Science Assistant Chair and Clinical Associate Professor Anne Spence, Ph.D., received the funds to formalize and implement the Growing Leaders and Learners project, a collaboration that also included the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, the School of Education and the Mayborn Museum.

“One thing the funds unlocked was the ability for us to imagine working across disciplines in more than an ad-hoc type of way,” Dr. Boddie said of the impact of donor gifts. “Without these funds, the project would have been a nice idea that we would like to do, but making it happen would only have happened in a very informal and inconsistent way. (These funds) really allowed us to imagine and say, ‘What would we really like to do together? What can we do that really might have some impact?’”

Dr. Boddie and her colleagues already received a small, $2,000 grant to build a greenhouse at a local elementary school, helping them to take the first steps toward research into creating affordable, experiential learning opportunities for teachers and students that could benefit from additional STEAM educational supports. The project was developed out of “Education From a Gardener’s Perspective,” a class Dr. Boddie taught for graduate-level students within the School of Education and Truett Seminary, aimed at helping future ministers and educators and practitioners learn the art of teaching.

With support from the ornament project, Dr. Boddie had the resources to officially organize and put in motion the building blocks of the pilot program. With the help of colleagues and students in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, the researchers developed a cost-effective, replicable aquaponics system to install within the participating elementary schools.

Students and faculty within the School of Education and School of Social Work are now developing curriculum that will support Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) goals for elementary-level and math standards related to the project as they use permaculture and aquaponics to grow and harvest food, as well as working to market and sell their produce or goods to sustain the project. The funds have also supported the hiring of Chrissy Sessa, BA ’20, a part-time project assistant, to provide research and administrative support.

“So often our subjects are siphoned off into separate areas, so the school of engineering and computer science and the school of education and social work are all sectioned off, but this project really ties them all together so well,” said Sessa. “This project has been really helpful, in seeing how all the participants relate to each other and can build off of each other. It’s been rewarding to be able to start a project that’s sustainable, so that years and years of Baylor students can still contribute to this project in their own individual way, and it’s still going toward something bigger that includes local schools, parents and the community.”

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