Grant Hall’s front yard is getting a facelift thanks to an APU alum and a team of student landscapers.
2018 APU graduate Kelly Ballantyne is the farm and food industries instructor at King Tech High School, the Anchorage School District’s vocational training center. As a first-year teacher, Kelly designed a year of hands-on projects for his farm-focused students. That included a landscaping unit in partnership with APU.
In March, a dozen King Tech students took a quick bus ride to campus for a unique field trip. They met their new clients – the APU facilities team – and received their new assignment: redesign the gardens of Grant Hall. The project challenged students to incorporate their client’s requests, pick plants with room to grow, and keep track of their potential project budget.
“I really want my class to be real-world and practical,” Kelly said of his courses. “To be a teacher who can really help students see the direct real-world application of this stuff is exciting for me.”
At King Tech, students had two weeks to design and refine their ideas in small groups. A team of APU advising, finance, and facilities staff went to King Tech in April to hear the student proposals, judge their presentations, and pick a winning team. APU started implementing the winning design this summer.
The project provided students with hands-on experience, but also with a fresh understanding of what college can be, Kelly said. While most King Tech students will enter careers after graduating, this collaboration introduced APU as an option. As a sustainability studies major, Kelly benefitted from one-on-one faculty connections, self-directed study, and practical projects. His focus on food systems and youth empowerment led to his current role at King Tech. “I really enjoyed it,” he said of the sustainability studies program.
Now entering his second year of teaching, Kelly hopes to continue the partnership. He’s in talks with APU Facilities to landscape a new corner of campus next year.