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Res Ed & Urban Garden

Dr. Sanders joined USC’s Parkside International Residential College (IRC) in fall 2014 as a Resident Faculty Fellow with her husband, Jason Sanders. As an IRC Faculty Fellow, Dr. Sanders lives on-campus at Parkside, plans outings, and hosts social events for students living within the community. Parkside IRC was formed to bring together a residential student body passionate about engaging in global issues, cultures and dialogues outside the boundaries of the traditional classroom. As sustainability enthusiasts, Dr. Sanders and her husband lead workshops, outreach events, and classroom laboratory activities to introduce college and K-12 students to environmental issues across local and global scales. In 2015, they launched a large community garden space, The Parkside Interactive Sustainability Laboratory, and piloted a food waste composting program at the Parkside Apartments dormitory.  In 2016, they built from the ground up a fully-functioning solar-powered aquaponics system with the help of USC students, as well as local K-12 students and teachers. Our fully organic garden space features:

  • A full-scale solar powered aquaponics system with goldfish, catfish and freshwater lobsters, featuring a 400 Watt Solar Photovoltaic System
  • Several urban growing systems (i.e. raised bed gardens, "growing socks", vertical growing systems, self-watering pots, and more),
  • Three vermiculture worm composting systems (flow-through and stackable), which are fed with local juice scraps from the campus juice bar,
  • Two additional food-scrap composting systems (i.e. tumblers and three bin static pile) 
  • Fully automated drip irrigation

Below is a photo journal to document the progression of our Parkside Interactive Sustainability Laboratory over time. We thank the USC Green Engagement Fund, USC Viterbi School of Engineering, USC Residential Education, and the USC Parkside Dining Hall for supporting our efforts! Contact ktsanders@usc.edu to request a tour or more information. 


    Kelly and Jason Sanders at USC's Parkside Apartments (Photo Credit: Lance Hill)



    We host events and workshops for USC students and student groups from around the local Los Angeles region to teach them about sustainable urban gardening. 

     Welcome to our new Parkside Community Garden! Established Earth Day 2015!



     Jason Sanders with Aziz Akbari and Akash Shah, two Parkside residents and co-founders of the garden. 


     Students learn about the value of good soil health and how to create good soil. This project is the first of several in a series to promote sustainability within the USC Parkside Community. 




    Over 30 students and faculty contributed to the first planting. 


     USC chefs pick pose for a picture with their salad greens. The staff pick fresh organic veggies daily. 



    Parkside Dining Hall's Chef Bruce picks a salad for the Parkside Dining Hall.  


    In 2015, Sanders and a group of nine USC students wrote a proposal, funded by the USC Green Engagement Fund, to add a solar-powered Aquaponics system to the garden. The system creates a symbiotic relationship where fish feed the plants and plants promote a healthy environment for the fish. The project construction brought together undergraduate Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineers, as well as Freshman from the Parkside Community. 



     In November 2015, a group of local K-12 teachers and students visited USC to help us build the solar-powered aquaponics system. By learning to build our system, they are hoping to bring aquaponics to their local schools to promote sustainable gardening at underserved schools in Los Angeles. 


    (Left) Fresh strawberries are harvested year-round. (Right) A sneak peak of the aquaponics system before finishing the fencing. 


     The solar-powered aquaponics system's first plantings! 



    The completed Solar Powered Aquaponics System. There are three major steps to this organic, symbiotic system. First the fish and worms provide nutrients for the plants via poop, then the plants clean the water by uptaking those nutrients, and finally, the lobsters help clean up anything in the water that the plants do not uptake before the filtered water is pumped back up to the fish tank with solar-powered electricity. The final products are vegetables, fruits, and protein (fish, lobster,... and worms if you are feeling brave.)


     The Solar Powered Aquaponics System with Chef's raised garden beds. 



     The community garden is home to 20 freshwater lobsters, 40 catfish, 20 goldfish and a few hundred thousand red wiggler composting  worms. The tiny freshwater lobster above will be about one pound when it reaches full size. 


    Three bin composting system.


    Raised bed garden in Spring 2016.



    Kale in the aquaponics system.


     Tomatoes in Spring 2016.



    Sustainable Thai Cooking Class Outreach Event in Fall 2016.