Student Project Culminates in Pollinator Garden

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” 
― Robert Louis Stevenson

Taking an idea and helping it grow is the underlying theme of a class project that started in the spring and culminated this fall with the planting of a pollinator garden outside the Riverside Campus bookstore in downtown Medford.

The garden, designed to benefit bees and butterflies, is the result of two class projects – neither of which had anything to do with horticulture. So how did a handful of RCC students and a pair of instructors come to find themselves on a Friday morning this fall with shovels, gloves and pots of milkweed, penstemon and lavender?

During spring term, RCC instructors Erika Giesen and Rich Rohde each tasked their students to complete a community improvement project. When students in Giesen’s Environment and Society sociology class and Rohde’s Civic Engagement and Community Leadership class learned they were each working on the same project, the two groups teamed up to research plants and gather permissions and funding for the campus beautification project.

“Part of our work was to develop a consensus around a project that could really make a difference and then carry it out,” said Rohde, a longtime community organizer.

The students selected the pollinator garden as a project that could be completed with limited time and resources. They identified several planter boxes outside the RVC bookstore as a feasible site, researched appropriate plants and created a PowerPoint presentation for their pitch to the Ad Hoc Committee for permissions and funding.

“They got approval for this in the spring and planting is best in the fall, so we’re out here today planting plants that attract pollinators – honeybees, butterflies and hummingbirds and other types of insects to help them – and also to beautify the campus because they’re pretty much all flowers,” Giesen said.

Rohde said the organizers hope to eventually add signage so the garden will become an educational tool, encouraging people to duplicate pollinator gardens across the community. “This can be a model for how we can have both beauty and environmental consciousness at the same time,” Rohde said.

In the meantime, the project seems to have planted some leadership seeds as well. Regina Braun, a psychology/sociology student who championed the project, is working towards a career in counseling. “As I do more sociology, I’m more excited about community projects and community leadership and development,” she said.


RCC’s Sustainable Community Development Focus Award is a targeted program of courses designed to educate and equip students in three vital areas: community engagement and leadership, sustainability, and diversity. When you become informed and inspired to make a difference in each of these areas, change will happen. And our community will benefit from your efforts.

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