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(Photos by the WIU Visual Production Center) Students from a WIU cultural anthropology Honors class joined students from the WIU Infant and Preschool Center Tuesday to plant a variety of flowers on a campus plot.
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Students, Toddlers Work Together to Beautify WIU Campus

April 30, 2013

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MACOMB, IL – Preschoolers from the Western Illinois University Infant and Preschool Center in Horrabin Hall played in the dirt Tuesday morning alongside students from a cultural anthropology Honors class.

The students are all part of an effort to create a more sustainable campus and are part of a larger program to create a garden space between the Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center and Waggoner Hall.

On Tuesday April 30, WIU anthropology Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad brought students from her First Year Experience (FYE) anthropology Honors class to the site to work with the preschoolers. The pairings of students and toddlers planted sunflowers, two types of onions, marigolds and Johnny jump-ups, all in purple and gold colors.

"One of the basic concepts of anthropology is enculturation or the process by which people learn the values and appropriate behaviors of that particular culture," she said. "My FYE students are taking what they have learned in theory and putting it into practice by interacting with the preschoolers."

In the classroom, McIlvaine-Newsad's 12 students are studying cultural ecology and how actions are influenced by physical environment.

"This outdoor exercise ties in well with the theory," she said. "It's the perfect way to end the semester. It's a way for students, young and old, to see that they can do a little bit of something and still make a difference."

The Infant and Preschool Center students have been using the site as an outdoor classroom one or two times each week this semester as part of a program being run by College of Education Graduate Assistant Pete Tarantola.

Tarantola has brought experts on gardening-type topics in to talk to the students, including WIU professors. The children made a list of topics of interest so Tarantola could cater the speakers to their ideas.

The preschoolers completed projects inside the classroom throughout the winter and have moved outdoors as the weather has improved.

Last week, the children's parents joined them for a late afternoon in the garden to plant vegetable seeds. The children also grew string beans inside the classroom and then transplanted them to the outdoor space.

Over the summer McIlvaine-Newsad and Assistant Professor Rob Porter will tend to the plantings so when students return in the fall, progress will be visible.

The garden space was added to the Macomb campus in August with the help of workers from WIU's Facilities Management. The initiative is also done in conjuction with Western's We Care program.

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing