College of

College of Education-Rodale Organic Garden


Food for Thought

A fresh, new idea is growing—quite literally—on the Mountaintop Campus, home to the College of Education.

Lehigh College of Education - Rodale Organic GardenOn a hill near the staff parking lot is an organic garden with eight small raised beds. In those beds have been planted the seeds of a program that, if properly nurtured, could one day help teachers feed their students’ bodies, as well as their minds.

The organic garden is a response to Dean Gary Sasso’s challenge to faculty and staff to start a community garden as a first step toward doing something to get healthy food from gardens to school cafeterias. Tamara Bartolet, director of marketing and communications for the college and a gardening enthusiast, took up the challenge and reached out to the nearby Rodale Institute for help getting the project off the ground (or in the ground, as the case may be).

The Rodale Institute, an early and ardent proponent of organic gardening in the U.S., planted the garden and has maintained it for the first year. Experts from the institute also have conducted monthly organic gardening workshops open to the community on the Mountaintop Campus from spring through the fall.

“This is a small, but meaningful, step forward,” says Bartolet, who earned her undergraduate degree in environmental studies and previously worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

The big picture is to eventually develop a graduate-level curriculum to equip teachers to understand what it takes to start gardens in their own schools that their students would maintain to grow fresh, healthy food for the school cafeteria. In the process, the gardens would serve an educational purpose as well, teaching children the connection between growing healthy foods and leading healthier lives.

As an added bonus, it could also help in the battle against childhood obesity. “It seems like a simple idea, but a lot of support needs to happen,” Bartolet says. It’s also an important idea, she adds: “We’re responsible for educating the whole child. If children are not being properly nourished, their minds are not fertile ground to accept information.”