Whether a first or frequent visitor, The Gardens at Texas A&M University is a must-see for students and visitors alike, especially now that spring is in bloom.
To further enhance The Gardens’ appeal, Kathryn “Kat” Grier, coordinator of educational programming and outreach for The Gardens, is leading a newly revitalized volunteer program to help with beautification and maintenance efforts of the Texas A&M public garden and greenspace.
“I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to work here and get back into the natural sciences and environmental education realm,” Grier said.
Connecting students with the community
The volunteer program helps promote The Gardens’ mission to engage the community in a living teaching environment, encourage curiosity and discovery, and develop wonder for the natural world. It provides supplemental support for the grounds crew that maintains the 7-acre Leach Teaching Gardens outdoor teaching and demonstration spaces within The Gardens.
“We have two tracks of volunteering: the individual volunteer program and the group volunteer program,” Grier said. “We shoot for two to three work days for volunteers in The Gardens and at our horticulture greenhouse facility.”
Volunteers can expect a wide range of projects through the program. From garden maintenance and restoration to propagation and planting, volunteers can expect to grow their understanding through hands-on learning.
As the seasons change, so do the various jobs and tasks available to volunteers, providing a range of volunteer experiences.
Opportunities for self-guided volunteer experiences
“The program is really based on what the volunteer’s interests are, how much time they want to put in and what they want to learn,” Grier said. “However, one thing is certain, volunteers can expect a hands-on garden maintenance experience.”
She said almost all the volunteer opportunities at The Gardens have a service-learning component, and no previous experience is needed to be a volunteer.
Grier has already seen a wide range of volunteers — from current students seeking to fulfill class requirements to former students with experience in the green industry who use the opportunity to serve as career mentors.
Katie Broyles, a biomedical science student at Texas A&M and the volunteer director of the American Medical Student Association, is using the volunteer program to promote “agritherapy.”
“Mental health and service are two things that are greatly emphasized in my organizations,” Broyles said. “The volunteer program offers an opportunity to get some fresh air in a safe and beautiful environment while also doing good.”
Broyles said when school or work gets busy, it is easy to confine yourself indoors.
“The Gardens gets you outside and even serves as a refreshing motivator,” she said.
One of Broyles’ favorite aspects of participating in the program is gaining an educational experience in addition to volunteering.
“I have absolutely loved learning about Texas plant life within The Gardens, and I know my fellow organization members share in that enjoyment,” Broyles said.
For information about how to become a volunteer, visit https://gardens.tamu.edu/volunteers/.