By the RORG Team
Over the fall 2020 semester, Red Oak Rain Garden Team members Layne and Kate had the privilege of leading the first RORG Student Team. The students, from Instructor Eric Green‘s Environmental Studies (ENVS) 492: Sustainability, Energy, and Environment Capstone class, accomplished a wide variety of tasks over the four months they worked with us, including:
- Photographing and documenting volunteer work during the RORG Fall 2020 plant installation
- Testing RORG’s soil infiltration to set a baseline for us to understand and track annually our efficiency of stormwater absorption
- Chalking university sidewalks to raise on-campus awareness of RORG
- Planning and executing social media work to increase audience and outreach, totaling nearly 50 hours of work which counted towards our ICECF Grant.
- Writing blogs to bridge specific interests with the multifaceted aspects of the garden
- Creating infographics relating to the garden
- Reaching out to campus cultural houses to establish and grow cross-campus collaboration
- Developing a socially-distant way to encourage interaction in the garden with sticker giveaways
- Creating and building a following on RORG’s TikTok account
- Utilizing days likes “National Evolution Day” and “National Recycling Day” to boost sustainability practices
- Presenting end-of-semester social media analytics and findings, as well as suggestions moving forward
We asked each Student Team member to reflect on the semester. Here are their responses:
“Working with the Red Oak Rain Garden this semester was an incredible experience. For one, I got to spend a lot of time in the rain garden, which is always an enjoyable and de-stressing time. Second, I learned a lot about social media management and creating content for an audience. Along the way, I also learned a lot of cool facts about the garden and rain gardens in general! I have been and will continue dishing out fun facts to my friends whenever we pass the garden. I’ve come away from this semester with a much greater appreciation for native species on campus and respect for how much goes into social media marketing.” – Lauren Lindow
“This semester, I learned how therapeutic it is to be in the garden and to create content that helps highlight the wonderful space. I was given free range to create, and the things that I produced will always bring a smile to my face and make me very proud. Being able to spend time in the garden and enjoy everything it had to offer really changed me for the better. I want to spend more time outside and find moments to appreciate the space that I am surrounded by. Spending time in the rain garden and creating content really opened my eyes to the artistic and zen world that I could be living in. The garden has touched heart.” – Ariel Gomez
“Being part of the Red Oak Rain Garden student team has been a wonderful experience due to the great social relationships I have made with my fellow group members as well as with the project leaders. I truly appreciate having the opportunity to improve my knowledge about the Red Oak Rain Garden and sustainability in general. One thing I could take away from this experience during this fall semester would be the connections I have made with everyone who was a part of this project, especially during these times because it is quite difficult to still feel a part of the community. I really enjoyed being able to head out into the garden either to take pictures of the plants, flowers and volunteers or even to film TikToks with my group members because it was a great opportunity to still feel connected to everybody in a positive way.” – Nina Jurko
“Working with the Red Oak Rain Garden team this semester has been immensely fulfilling and definitely taught me a lot about sustainable project management along with the intricacies of social media advertising. I spend so much time on social media and never thought about the work that goes into curating specialized posts to an interested audience. Through the whole process of planting, soil testing, and visiting the garden throughout the semester, I have gotten a lot more familiar with what goes into constructing a rain garden and what plants are important to include. Because of this, I feel confident that I could implement my own rain garden at my house if I wanted, also being able to advocate for others to do the same. This is especially significant because it helps restore our environment to a more natural form while also providing a function. This is the backbone of sustainable design and I am so grateful to be a part of such a beneficial project.” – Maggie Nutter
As RORG Director Eliana Brown said during the students’ final presentation, “One of our missions is to champion the next generation of young professionals in environmental careers. This semester was successful for these wonderful students and also for Layne and Kate in their first supervisory roles, which they hit out of the park. We’re grateful to iSEE’s Madhu Khanna, Gillen Wood, Morgan White, and Eric Green for providing the opportunity to work with their capstone course.”
We wish Ariel, Lauren, Maggie, and Nina the very best as they finish out their degrees at Illinois. We’ll miss our weekly virtual meetings, but we’re grateful for the time we had with them and know they will go on to accomplish great things!
To support RORG’s mission in your end of the year giving, click here.