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Vol 40  No 1
August 9, 2007


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‘Plant Men’ help make the Education building a flourishing space
by Heidi Wicks

Dr. Glen Clark, left, and Mr. Bruce Burton have turned their green thumbs into green space for the Faculty of Education. (Photo by Chris Hammond)

In the brick-wall-beige of the G.A. Hickman (Education) building, the mini-rainforest on the third floor is a welcome living burst of colour. Almost always, students, faculty and staff can be found nestled in the couches, absorbing the area’s natural beauty while their brains also benefit from the greenery.

A study at Washington State University found that plants increase moisture in the air and stabilize humidity, in turn reducing the risk of colds and flus. They also boost productivity, improve air quality by absorbing pollutants and airborne pathogens, increase morale, and reduce stress.

Dean Alice Collins encouraged Dr. Glen Clark and Mr. Bruce Burton to undertake the initiative in the Faculty of Education. All three are avid gardeners at home, and appreciate the joy a few plants can bring to the work place.

“We’ve always had the plants in the building’s labs for the elementary education curriculum courses we teach,” said Dr. Clark, sitting amidst his own personal office woodland.

In elementary science classes, students can consult plants when learning biology. In teaching curriculum to education students, plants have always been present in labs. Dr. Clark and Mr. Burton decided to bring the beauty into the hallways, and most staff and faculty jumped on the plant-wagon.

“It was done pretty much on the cheap,” Dr. Clark chuckled. “Myself and Bruce brought in some plants from home, Alice (Collins) brought in some plants from her home, and we all contributed some pots at first, but eventually the faculty paid for more pots and we’d pick up some plants on sale from Kent or something, and it kind of just grew from there.”

Literally. One particular viny foliage now climbs up the wall and onto the ceiling in the building’s ‘green area’. Moreover, the whole project grew from a single flowering amaryllis sitting in a window, to dozens of green and flowering pots all over the building.

“It’s been pretty economical too,” said Mr. Burton, explaining that numerous plants have been started by cutting tiny leaves and replanting them into new pots. “Cutting not only creates a new plant, but also improves the health of the old plant, so it’s economical in many ways, really.”

For the small amount of care and maintenance required to maintain a project that brings such pleasure to all who roam the building’s halls, it’s worth it. And if you’re lucky enough to catch either of these ‘plant men’ in the hall, you may even get a green thumb tip or two, such as don’t water your plants unless they are three-quarters dry; otherwise you might kill them.

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