Planting More Than a Seed


Students and faculty are taking therapeutic gardening to the Cambria Care Center in Ebensburg this semester. The program’s goal is to promote social, mental and physical wellness. 

“Exercise is medicine,” said Rosemary Bertocci, a Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies who came up with the idea. “It’s a way to help, a little bit, with the treatment these residents get.” 

SFU secured funding for this project through a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. 

Students have already built eight small and three large raised flower beds at the Care Center. Future plans include engineering students designing adjustable raised garden beds, which will give patients in wheelchairs easier access to them.

“We were looking for a signature project for environmental studies,” said Tim Bintrim, Chair of the Environmental Studies Department.

The students involved with the program are working directly with patients at the center. 

“As an added bonus, students can get a therapeutic gardening badge, which is a digital representation of a skill or expertise,” said Bertocci. “They can put this on their resume.”

The relationship has proven to be a mutually beneficial one, for students and Cambria Care Center residents.

“A lot of the residents can’t wait to see the plants out there,” said Bertocci.

Bertocci believes the most significant benefit for both the students and the residents is the socialization that is taking place through the project.

“That’s most important: that interaction between the student and the resident.”

Bintrim agrees.

“Some students said it was like spending time with their grandparents.”

Bertocci said the idea for the project was sparked by a show called “Gardening World,” which is about movement, medicine and natural remedies. She felt SFU could do something similar. 

Bertocci said plans are in place to take a jazz band to the center as part of the project.

“They will respond to music from their era,” said Bertocci. “That’s the next iteration of this, which we didn’t anticipate when we wrote the grant. 

It’s morphing into things that we didn’t dream of.”