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UK landscape architecture students learn real-world skills, give back to community
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During a week when most college students are focused on barreling through their last final and heading home for a holiday break, fourth-year landscape architecture students were spending an unseasonably warm December day building a shade structure for preschoolers.
When Ryan Hargrove, a faculty member in the University of Kentucky Department of Landscape Architecture in the College of Agriculture, started teaching the methods and materials course four years ago, he redesigned it to include more sustainable and service-learning projects. Each year, the class works with a client in the community to design and build some type of structure. This year, they worked with UK’s Early Childhood Laboratory, which provides a teaching tool to early childhood learning majors and is one of the highest-rated childcare facilities in the state.
“It’s extremely important for the students, because not only do they get the experience in the studio designing something, they get to work with a contractor and see their design ideas actually become real life projects,” Hargrove said. “It’s that interaction with the client and with a contractor that really takes the educational experience to a new level.”
Tom Tague, from Cadiz, was a student in Hargrove’s class this semester. He and his classmates chose his idea as the main design for the shade structure and then incorporated the other students’ ideas to meet the client’s needs.
“This is really remarkable to come out here and actually see something built to help them (children) and protect them from the sun, and it’s good to know they’ll be able to be out here and use this space more,” Tague said.
Each year, the class works with a local contractor to make the project a reality. For the past three years, that contractor has been UK alumnus Robby Watts and his crew from Trec Construction in Nicholasville. Watts said working with the students is always encouraging to him and he appreciates the opportunity to mentor them in some way.
“I really enjoy looking at the young guys’ ideas and then showing them what it takes to make it a working, functional design… this is probably the most unique structure we’ve done with the students so far,” he said. “I’ll continue to do it as long as they keep giving me good ideas.”
Landscape architecture is a five-year degree at UK, so by the fourth year, students are really ready to start putting theory into practice.
“Students are a little more experienced at this point,” Hargrove said. “At this point, they’re taking things to a real detailed level—designing and make it a reality on a site.”
Hargrove said the projects are funded by grants and other funding sources, and they are always looking for other ways to fund them.
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