Spring arrives each year with a reminder of how beneficial warm temperatures and new blossoms — excluding the onslaught of pollen — can be for one’s overall well being. However, the year-long program Flourish proves that these benefits don’t have to be limited to one season.
Flourish, a drop-in space created by Prevention Services and Department of Horticultural Science, aims to increase students' time with nature and plants while providing students with support and promoting student connection.
The drop-in space is run by Emily Anderson, an outreach and resilience coordinator with Prevention Services, and Helen Kraus, an associate professor and Undergraduate Programs director within the Department of Horticultural Science.
Anderson provides supplies for the activities and ensures Flourish remains a safe space that focuses on student connection while Kraus focuses on the horticultural aspects, teaching students about plants as well as letting them experience the benefits in a hands-on manner.
“We look at Flourish as offering some opportunities for just the grounding aspect of really just literally getting your hands dirty, as well as helping to promote that environmental wellness,” Anderson said.
The program was developed based on research from the benefits of horticulture therapy: a type of therapy that utilizes practices like gardening or taking a walk in nature to boost well-being and improve mental and physical health.
Horticulture therapy has also been shown to improve fine motor skills, and as a result is used by many institutions including, but not limited to, hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities and prisons.
Flourish’s activities range from creating zen gardens and terrariums to taste-testing unique jams and jellies made from begonias. Some activities allow students to take plants home, which can be used to make a room more aesthetically pleasing.
“We know that so much of being a student is being in your rooms, being in the lab, being in these brick or concrete buildings,” Anderson said. “There’s just so many benefits of just being around the plants, whether that’s that they’re helping to purify the air, or they’re scented, or just visually, they’re bringing that calmness to your space.”
Another added benefit of having plants in a living space is that they encourage routine. Creating a watering schedule or checking on the health of the plants regularly can provide structure to one’s day.
For Kraus, the routine of checking on her plants each evening helps her to decompress.
“When I get home in the evenings, I’m really kind of just drained from the interactions I have all day,” Kraus said. “So the first thing I do is actually walk in my garden for just five minutes even, and it’s just time to set aside work and kind of refocus to be at home and transition over.”
As finals season approaches, Anderson added that finding time to relax is increasingly important, even if it’s only for five or ten minutes.
“One of the biggest things right now is just encouraging students to remember to take breaks,” Anderson said.
Flourish will meet April 3 and April 17 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at Campus Health, in room 2301. The program is set to start again in the fall semester after the first couple of weeks of classes.
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