Planning new plants: A hands‑on learning experience for students

- April 27, 2018

Exploring designs at the "Plants in the Human Landscape" showcase. (Provided photos)
Exploring designs at the "Plants in the Human Landscape" showcase. (Provided photos)

Biology Professor Rajesh Rajaselvam saw Dal’s 200th anniversary as an opportunity for his students to reshape campus in some way.

That’s the inspiration behind the term-end projects from “Plants in the Human Landscape,” a Dal course cross-listed between Biology, Environmental Sciences and Planning (and, as of next year, Landscape Architecture). Taught by Prof. Rajaselvam, the course features a culminating project which allowed students to reimagine the Life Science Centre’s (LSC) front yard.

Earlier this month (April 9), 13 groups of students displayed their designs inside the LSC, where they were judged by Dal Biology faculty members and the university’s greenhouse manager. The designs were meant show the students understanding of course topics, including horticultural requirements of plants, soil and nutrients, principles of garden design, and the history of gardens.

While each team design had a different approach, the overall goals were the same: something that was appealing to eye, required little to no maintenance and had scientific reason behind each decision.

“Students get to practice submitting designs and decided what plants and trees they wanted —  for example, some have bio therapeutic plants and others have visually appealing plants,” said teaching assistant Meredith Fraser.

Although all the groups produced compelling ideas, three of them were selected as having the best designs. Rahaf Hussain was from one of those teams, which designed a different look for the building’s entrance facing the University of King’s College.

“Our group provided a landscape that would allow your eyes to go directly to door,” she said. We chose plants that are suitable for the weather and low in maintenance. We chose silver maple trees because when they move in the wind they tend to shimmer colours of silver, magnolias due to their beautiful colour as focal point, and red spruce trees because they provide shelter from the wind as well.”

The teaching team will be sending the three winning designs to Facilities Management in case they are of value in consideration for any future redesigns of the LSC exterior space.


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