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Student exploration: Healing starts with everyday plants

Laura Lagunez '16, left, and Camila Martinez, a graduate student in the field of plant biology, examine plants in Belize during their spring break. (Photo: Sierra Murray)

Laura Lagunez ’16, left, and Camila Martinez, a graduate student in the field of plant biology, examine plants in Belize during their spring break. (Photo: Sierra Murray)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-05-19]:

Stretching beyond the “apple a day” adage, Cornell students explored a natural area in Ithaca and villages in Belize to learn how common plant life helps alleviate ailments.

“In Belize, use of healing plants is a centuries-old tradition that’s being lost because fewer young people are pursuing plant medicine,” said senior lecturer Marcia Eames-Sheavly, who teaches Healing Plants and the People Who Use Them.

Said Eames-Sheavly, “It’s fascinating that here in the U.S., the interest in healing plants seems to be exploding.”

Read the whole article.

More information:

‘Healing Plants and the People Who Use Them’ final project presentations May 16

In Healing Plants and the People Who Use Them, I ceased to be a walking résumé.

Students in PLHRT 4940, Healing Plants and the People Who Use Them, spent spring break working with and learning from Mayan healers in Belize and herbalists in the Ithaca area.  They will provide an overview of their experiences and present their final projects on May 16 from 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. in 102 Mann Library.

What makes the course special? Instructor Marcia Eames-Sheavly, a senior lecturer and senior Extension associate in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science explains:

Students in the Ithaca group work with local herbalists to prepare herbal infusions (Photo: Isabel Gareau)

Students in the Ithaca group work with local herbalists to prepare herbal infusions (Photo: Isabel Gareau)

The course syllabus for PLHRT 4940: Healing Plants and the People Who Use Them begins with an intention:

  • What are the various roles of plants in our lives?
  • What is a community, and in that community, what are people’s ways of understanding and knowing?
  • And, who are you?

Whatever your answer to these questions, and whatever it includes at this juncture of your life, our hope is that if you intentionally engage in PLHRT 4940, by semester’s end, your ideas of the value of plants…of community…and of self, are going to be changed.

During the first half of the semester, the students participated in diverse classroom activities to prepare them to make the most of their experience. That meant more than just learning how to identify plants. As a team, we engaged students in topics ranging from ethics and cultural sensitivity to appropriate use of technology and how to ask good questions. And teamwork was key. As the students worked and planned together, they learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They learned that they didn’t need to know it all if they could work together.

During the 2016 spring break, we divided into two groups. One group traveled to the Toledo District of Belize to work with Mayan healers. The other stayed in Ithaca to work with Tammi Sweet, co-founder of the Heartstone Herbal School.

Depending on the location, the students focused on learning traditional plant medicine and the spiritual ecology undergirding it; preserving the wisdom of indigenous healers and their knowledge of medicinal plants; making preparations ranging from salves to soaps; and preparing a new medicinal plants nature trail.  Both groups steeped in reflection about healing plants, the people who use them, and their own journey at these intersections.

Students in the Belize group warm up with plant identification. (Photo: Sierra Murray)

Students in the Belize group warm up with plant identification. (Photo: Sierra Murray)

In Belize, use of healing plants is a centuries-old tradition that’s being lost because fewer young people are pursuing plant medicine.  It’s fascinating that here in the U.S., the interest seems to be exploding. Learning about plant medicine and the people engaged in it has benefits for people around the world, and for the health of our students here at Cornell, too.

Before the course, I had a few friends who studied plants—individuals I met through my cooperative—and had only a vague interest in plants, myself. Now, I have built off that vague interest, learning how everyday plants we walk by on our way to class could actually be useful in our lives. …I have gained friends and developed bonds with individuals who allow me to cultivate this interest further.

Students on their way to a new medicinal plants trail in the forest at Rio Blanco National Park. (Photo: Olivia McCandless)

Students in Belize on their way to a new medicinal plants trail in the forest at Rio Blanco National Park. (Photo: Olivia McCandless)

Understanding the need for a solid undergirding in anthropological perspective, I invited Charis Boke, Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology, to collaborate in teaching. “I was curious to see how my work as a cultural anthropologist would fit in with plant science,” she recalls. But working as part of our teaching team along with horticulture graduate student Grant Thompson and plant biology graduate student Camila Martinez (who both helped lead the Belize trip) to prepare the students for their experiential spring break work turned out to be “…one of the most stimulating teaching experiences I’ve had. Together we were able to create a robustly reflective and engaging cross-disciplinary learning experience for the students.”

After break, students from both groups tackled practical projects primarily aimed at integrating their new-found interests with specific lay audiences. These took forms ranging from narratives based on interviews with healers to lesson plans, a grant proposal rationale, cookbook recipes, how-to flyers on growing medicinal plants, personal essays, maps, and blending teas to help fellow students cope with stress.

“We opened up a place for them to explore their own passions,” says Boke. “Seeing them latch on to these concrete ways that they can insert themselves into the world of people-plant relationships has been really gratifying.”

I have experienced such a holistic form of learning that the class will continue to follow me and my life path—perhaps even guiding my life’s path into the future.

Botanical Illustration Intensive exhibition

Tuesday, students in Intensive Study in Botanical Illustration (PLHRT 3250) exhibited their portfolios in an informal mini-art show in Plant Science 141. The course, taught by Marcia Eames-Sheavly using the Moodle-based distance-learning modules she created  is one of the requirements for the Minor in Horticulture with a Focus in the Botanical Arts.

art show

The artists included:

Anthony Teng

Anthony Teng

Patty Chan

Patty Chan

 

Shujie Li

Shujie Li

Tommi Schieder

Tommi Schieder

Yuxi Xiao had to take an exam and missed the fun.

Yuxi Xiao had to take an exam and missed the fun.

Senior honors Nobel laureate McClintock with library display

Juliet Jacobson ’16 stands in front of the exhibit she designed for Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock in Mann Library. (Photo: Matt Hayes)

Juliet Jacobson ’16 stands in front of the exhibit she designed for Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock in Mann Library. (Photo: Matt Hayes)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-05-10]

It took nearly 40 years for Barbara McClintock ’23, M.A. ’25, Ph.D. ’27, to be recognized for her groundbreaking research, winning the 1983 Nobel Prize for work she completed in the 1940s.

Now after another 30 years, Cornell has a prominent display marking the achievements of a scientist who discovered one of the most fundamental aspects of genetics.

And it’s all thanks to the persistence of Juliet Jacobson ’16.

Jacobson, a senior studying biological sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, first learned of McClintock’s achievements while in high school. When she arrived at Cornell she expected to find a statue or other prominent marker commemorating a titan of science who earned three degrees at the university and later returned to teach. What she found instead was a plaque near the small space where McClintock conducted her research, far from popular spots on campus where wandering students might learn of her life and legacy.

Read the whole article.

In the news

From Picture Cornell May 4:

Students peruse the colorful offerings by Hortus Forum during an Earth Day display, April 20. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Students peruse the colorful offerings by Hortus Forum during an Earth Day display, April 20. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Boots on the farm: Helping military vets enter agriculture [CALS Notes 2016-03-03] –  Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and the Cornell Small Farms Program (CFSP) are helping military veterans find new career opportunities in agriculture.

New toolkit clarifies agricultural economic assessment [Cornell Chronicle 2016-03-03] –  A Cornell University economist has teamed up with the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other researchers to provide a standardized toolkit to evaluate the economic benefits of investing in local and regional food systems.

Jim Giovannoni elected to the National Academy of Sciences [Discovery that Connects (SIPS blog) 2016-03-03] – Jim Giovannoni (SIPS Section of Plant Biology Adjunct Faculty) was among 84 new members elected to the National Academy of Sciences on May 3. Giovannoni, BTI staff member and plant molecular biologist with ARS, researches the genetics and regulation of fruit ripening, with particular focus on tomato.

 

Botanical illustration exhibition May 10

botanical illustrationFrom Marcia Eames-Sheavly:

Please mark your calendars for May 10, from 12:30 – 1:00, Rm. 141 Plant Science, for an informal exhibit of student work in PLHRT 3250: Botanical Illustration Intensive.

This small but mighty group of 5 students has produced some very fine pieces!

Come peruse their work and celebrate their hours and hours of hunching over drawing tables these past months.

 

 

 

‘Urban Eden’ students plant campus landscapes

Urban Eden students plant along Garden Avenue outside Teagle Hall.

Urban Eden students plant along Garden Avenue outside Teagle Hall.

Every year since 2001, students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) have taken on real world projects, designing and installing gardens on campus each spring.

This year’s projects include a strip along Garden Avenue west of Teagle and Comstock Halls, areas behind Warren Hall, and a planting at the entrance to Plant Science Building just west of the new Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory.

For that project, the low-growing plants were specifically selected so as not to shade the Conservatory or to attract pests that might move from the planting inside, says Nina Bassuk, Horticulture Section professor who teaches the course along Landscape Architecture professor Peter Trowbridge.

The plants include a mix of evergreen and deciduous woody plant species with a variety of foliage colors that provide year-round interest and discourage browsing by deer. “We’ve used a lot of new cultivars so that we can introduce them to future classes as part of our teaching program,” says Bassuk, who is also the director of the Urban Horticulture Institute.

The students also tried a new planting technique using smaller plugs that are easier to handle and plant but will quickly fill the space.

New planting outside the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory at the entrance of the Plant Science Building.

New planting outside the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory at the entrance of the Plant Science Building.

 

 

 

 

Dean’s Awards recognize Plant Sciences Majors, teachers

Dean Kathryn Boor honored a select group of CALS students, faculty and staff during this year’s Dean’s Awards Dinner held April 18 at the Statler Hotel. The annual event recognizes outstanding faculty, staff and students; with a focus on undergraduate education, teaching and advising.

Five members of the plant sciences community were recognized:

Student awards:

  • CALS Academic Excellence – Plant Sciences: Joshua Kaste
  • SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence: Sarah Nadeau (Biological Engineering & Plant Sciences) and Dhruv Patel (Biological Sciences & Plant Sciences)

Faculty awards:   

  • Faculty Service: William L. Crepet, Plant Biology Section
  • Teaching:  Kevin C. Nixon, Plant Biology Section

Congratulations all!

Clockwise from upper left: Joshua Kaste, Dhruv Patel, Kevin C. Nixon, William L. Crepet. Not pictured: Sarah Nadeau.

Receiving congratulations from Dean Boor are (clockwise from upper left) Joshua Kaste, Dhruv Patel, Kevin C. Nixon, William L. Crepet. Not pictured: Sarah Nadeau.

‘Urban Eden’ students put a price tag on trees for Arbor Day

Urban Eden teaching assistants Huan Liu and Miles Schwartz Sax tag a sugar maple outside of Roberts Hall.

Urban Eden teaching assistants Huan Liu and Miles Schwartz Sax tag a sugar maple outside of Roberts Hall.

What’s a tree worth?

In what has become an annual tradition, students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) are helping to make people more aware of why trees are worth hugging by hanging bright green “price tags” on trunks around the Ag Quad.

The students entered data about the trees, such as species, diameter and location, into i-Tree — a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service. The application then calculates monetary benefits from reduced stormwater runoff, improved air quality,  carbon dioxide sequestration and energy savings to nearby buildings by blocking wind in winter and providing shade in summer.

“It’s really quite eye-opening for people who think that trees are just nice to look at and don’t have any other value,” said Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who leads the class alongside Peter Trowbridge, professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

There are also benefits that are not easily quantified, such as wildlife habitats and emotional responses, added Bassuk, who is also director of the Urban Horticulture Institute.

Urban Eden tree taggers spread out across the Ag Quad tagging trees ...

Urban Eden tree taggers spread out across the Ag Quad tagging trees …

... until it was time to go prune and mulch landscapes installed by previous Urban Eden classes.

… until it was time to go prune and mulch landscapes installed by previous Urban Eden classes.

Hortus Forum Easter bulb sale

From Hortus Forum, Cornell’s undergraduate horticulture club:

Don’t miss out on your chance to grab Hortus Forum’s beautiful selection of bulbs for the holiday weekend!

  • 12” Hyacinths, Tulips, Daffodils, Muscari – $10
  • 5” Cyclamen – $6
  • 6” Cyclamen – $8

Pre-orders will be taken only! Please contact, Christian Lesage, at cdl64@cornell.edu or Sarah Hetrick, at seh255@cornell.edu to confirm your order. Flowers may be picked up at the Kenneth Post Laboratory Greenhouse from noon to 5pm on Friday, March 25th.

Can you smell the hyacinths?

Can you smell the hyacinths?

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