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Visiting teachers leave something behind

February 15, 2010

The last thing the Korean teachers probably thought they’d be doing at ASU was planting flowers. But that’s exactly what they found themselves doing on a beautiful February morning on the Tempe campus.

Forty-two high school and junior high teachers from Korea, who were studying at the American English and Culture Program, concluded their monthlong stay at ASU with a volunteer project of beautifying the flower beds outside ASU Gammage.

The Korean teachers paid for the flowers, and ASU groundskeepers Paul Hahn, Scott Bair, Jarin Castro and Calvin Lee worked with them to plant more than 200 flowers – lobelia, petunias, geraniums, and yellow and orange calendulas.

“We had a blast with them,” said Deborah Thirkhill, Arboretum volunteer coordinator. “We didn’t have the funding to this, so it was a win-win.”

Hahn designed the flower beds and chose the plants, including calendulas because “they go with our campus harvest theme,” Thirkhill said. “Calendulas are edible, and chefs sometimes use them to decorate dessert plates.”

Groundskeeper Lee, who is Navajo, had a particularly good time talking with the Korean teachers, Thirkhill said – sometimes conversing in both Navajo and Korean.

“We exchanged information about a lot of different things," Lee said. "I had no problem communicating with them. I explained about the different types of plants that are grown here in the desert. They ask me how I liked my job here, I told them that I love my job. I got to go to school at the Desert Botanical Gardens where I received my Desert Landscape Certification and really loved it.”

The Korean teachers came to ASU through the Korean Ministry of Education, said Adam Henry, strategic projects coordinator for AECP.

“The purpose of their visit was to improve their English and learn how to teach English,” Henry said.

The Korean Ministry of Education selects three universities in the United States to partner with in English immersion programs.

“We have been a long-standing partner,” Henry said. “We’ve never done a volunteer project in the past, but we feel that volunteerism is a quality that should be communicated to all.”