By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Albion residents and Albion College students will plant a butterfly garden at McIntosh Park this weekend, marking the latest seeds planted in a growing partnership between the college and the local Girl’s Club.
Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday and again at 10 a.m. Sunday, the group will use grant money from the Albion Community Foundation to plant flowers and flowering trees and install a bench in honor of the National Day of Service and Remembrance.
Dr. Trisha Franzen, a professor of women’s and gender studies at the college, said she is enthusiastic about continuing to teach local youth about nutrition and sustainability through her partnership with the Girl’s Club.
In 2006, Franzen made a connection with the public schools to create a hands-on experience for students of her Introduction to Women’s Studies course and to provide a free club for 10- to 14-year-old girls to connect through.
The club meets every Tuesday evening during the school year, and girls learn about where food comes from, make meals from scratch, plant fruits and vegetables and learn the truth about nutrition and food production myths.
Albion College junior Rachel Keener, a sociology major, felt so strongly about her exposure to the Girl’s Club in Franzen’s class that she decided to take things a step further. Through a grant she helped obtain, she and Franzen developed an entire summer of programming.
“(Dr. Franzen and I) both really like food and grow our own food and we thought it would be a really great idea to work with these girls over the summer and build a garden with them,” she said.
For seven weeks Keener and Franzen dedicated several hours a day, five days a week to enriching the girls’ lives through field trips, hands-on food workshops and serious discussions about how to eat healthy while dealing with tight budgets.
Keener said she was amazed at how little the girls knew about how food is produced and processed, but she was also surprised by how quickly the group became interested in organic foods and more animal-friendly practices.
“We had a couple of girls who came back the day after we talked about how chickens and other animals are treated and said, ‘I just want to let you know I told my mom about what happens and we’re never buying eggs from a place (other than) the farmer’s market again,'” she said.
Keener said children like the idea of one day starting their own community garden where they can plant foods and even sell them at a stand.
Albion College senior Sydney Downey, an Albion High School graduate who took Franzen’s introductory class, agrees it’s not just about nutrition, it’s about empowering the girls.
“I remember building birdhouses with them and watching them use hammers, and a lot of kids were just working hard and others had no idea how to do it. It’s cool just to watch them grow,” Downey said.