Food, nutrition education grow through nationally recognized MSU learning garden design project

Contact: Vanessa Beeson

MSU Associate Professor Cory Gallo installs a trellis at the Galloway Elementary School garden in Jackson.
MSU Associate Professor Cory Gallo installs a trellis at the Galloway Elementary School garden in Jackson. (Photo by Drew Dempsey)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State students studying landscape architecture, architecture and graphic design are bringing home a national honor for their learning garden concept.

A cross-college consortium of MSU students conceptualized a suite of garden designs aimed at helping schools build learning gardens based on their educational needs. The Living Room: A Freeware Learning Garden Focused on Health, Food and Nutrition Education received an Honor Award for Student Collaboration at the American Society of Landscape Architects, or ASLA. The team, which included 10 landscape architecture students, 10 architecture students and one graphic design student, was recognized at the society’s recent virtual conference.

Cory Gallo, MSU associate professor of landscape architecture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, served as faculty advisor for the group.

“For the fifth time since 2012, the design/build studio has earned a national design award from the American Society of Landscape Architects. Many of these awards have been in collaboration with architecture and graphic design faculty and students, including this most recent one,” Gallo said. “The society chose only 35 awards out of 560 applicants this year. The recognition is a continued testament to the unique cross-college process that has been ongoing at Mississippi State for the last decade.”

An overview photo of the learning garden at Galloway Elementary School in Jackson shows trellises and concrete benches among it structures.
Concrete benches included in the Galloway Elementary School garden in Jackson are among the first applications of rapid three-dimensional concrete printing in the U.S. Each six-foot-long bench was printed by Salt Lake City, Utah-based Pikus Concrete. (Photo by Drew Dempsey)

Gallo explained the garden’s concept was further illustrated in two proof-of-concept designs—one that has been installed at Galloway Elementary School in Jackson and another scheduled for installation at the Starkville Oktibbeha School District Partnership School at MSU in spring 2021.

“The team worked with educators and stakeholders to tailor the design to each site’s individual needs. For instance, the garden at Galloway Elementary emphasized ample teaching space aligned around five themes including math, science and art, which allows teachers to use the garden for almost every subject. This ensures that the garden will be used for not just food education, but as an integral part of the classroom,” Gallo said.

Hans Herrmann, MSU associate professor in the School of Architecture in the College of Architecture, Art and Design, said students benefited from the collaborative hands-on experience.

“The first-hand feedback from trying to construct what was previously just an idea is something that traditional classroom instruction cannot approximate. Issues of material supply, site conditions, transportation logistics, tools and equipment all come into focus once you are standing on the site and realize that you’re the one who has to get the job done,” he said.

Herrmann said he was proud of how multiple disciplines joined together, including MSU alumni, to bridge between areas of expertise and gaps in experience.

“The work of these projects is more than just the hours in the field building and installing the gardens. It’s about building the team, taking ownership and responsibility for key components, and working with other organizations in Mississippi to make the state we call home that much better for the next generation,” he said.

In addition to the national award, the project was featured in a chapter of “Design-Build: Integrating Craft, Service, and Research through Applied Academic Practice,” a textbook by University of Washington Landscape Architecture Professor Daniel Winterbottom which was published by Routledge this year.

In addition to Gallo and Herrmann, Associate Professor Suzanne Powney in the Department of Art’s graphic design concentration advised the graphic student on the project. Associate Professor Ryan Walker in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education consulted on the project as well. 

Collaborators included The Fertile Ground Project, a Jackson-based program inspiring dialogue about food access; JH&H Architects in Flowood; Utah’s Pikus Concrete; and Pennsylvania’s Significant Developments. The garden at the Starkville Oktibbeha School District Partnership School at MSU is funded through a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation.

To learn more about the national ASLA award, visit and scroll to the student collaboration category.

For more information on MSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, visit For more information on the university’s College of Architecture, Art and Design, visit

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