US (DE): UD Botanic Gardens prepares Delaware high school

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The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) is preparing the next generation of horticulturists through a work-based learning program for high school seniors in Delaware’s Appoquinimink School District.

“If you look at Delaware and our region, we have an abundance of botanic gardens and parks,” said Lauren Kope, director of UDBG. “Horticulture is a highly desired skill. Most people experience only the public-facing side of gardens, but behind the scenes is an entire industry that is hungry for horticulture professionals.”

UDBG offers high school seniors a peek behind the scenes of an industry that includes landscape design, nursery production, garden centers and irrigation careers. While the horticulture field holds many opportunities, it is not a well-known career path, said UD Class of 2011 alumna and Delaware agriscience teacher Brynn Bailey, whose students attend the work-based learning program.

“We provide the students with a preview of the horticultural industry,” said UD alumnus and UD Botanic Gardens horticulture manager Andrew Adams, who is responsible for training the students.

Adams covers plant identification and horticultural practices like propagation, watering techniques and proper three-point pruning. The training occurs on the Botanic Gardens’ 15 acres of gardens and in the greenhouse. Onsite at UD, students encounter various horticulture professionals and plant science researchers.

“They might see Jill Pollok, our plant diagnostician, or they will see Brian Kunkel, a Cooperative Extension specialist, working on integrated pest management,” Adams said.

Adams is a favorite among the work-based learning students; they attest to his knowledge and sense of humor, which made the experience extra special.

“Andrew can answer pretty much any question,” said Weslee Harkins, who participated in the program in 2023. “He knows plant science, and he let me drive the gator.”

Adams is similarly impressed by the high school students.

“I did not realize how well prepared the students would be,” Adams said. “They arrive with a ton of background knowledge and show a genuine interest in plants.”


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