Olivia Shinault: Healing Garden


Courtesy of Olivia Shinault

Jana Isern, Staff Writer

Senior Olivia C. Shinault was featured at the beginning of the school year on a WVEC news show as one of the Virginia Beach students in the city’s Environmental Studies Program at the Macon and Joan Brock Center. She has been working throughout the year on her senior project at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens (NBG), which she completed.

Shinault explained that she’s always had an interest in environmental science and marine conservation. However, she applied to the program “on a whim.” When attending the VOTEC and ATC information night she heard about the program. “I was handed a flier in my biology class to be one of the first students accepted into the program,” she said. Along with Shinault, 50 students were accepted.

Shinault explained that a main focus of the program is community. For example, she mentioned that she has been working with the NBG throughout her time at the Environmental Studies Program. Shinault said that after she graduates she plans “on going to community college for two years and working with the Botanical Garden.”

The senior project was an opportunity for seniors to work in internships as well as display their knowledge to juniors and teachers in the program.

During this time, Shinault attended an internship at the NBG and worked closely with the organization to create her project. The project consisted of developing a healing garden focusing on the traditional use of native Virginia plants as they had once been used by the Native Americans of Virginia. Since the project would take at least several months to a year, Shinault created a mini study out of it.

This field of study is called Ethnobotany. “It is a field of study that focuses on studying regional plants and their practical uses through traditional knowledge of local culture and people,” stated Shinault.

Courtesty of Olivia Shinault

Shinault explained that this study is important in the field of environmental science because it provides insight on the known traditional uses of plants and the development of plants as a healing medicine. She remarked that the NBG has been a great collaborator throughout her project.

“They always strive to help educate the public about the native plants quite literally found in our backyards and surrounding neighborhoods,” said Shinault.

Shinault explained that since most of the plants she wanted to use for the healing garden needed to be planted in the fall, her main focus throughout this year has been planning. Through the collaboration with the horticulture department at NBG she created and organized a layout of what the healing garden will look like and the medicinal use of each plant included in the garden.

She also created a website to go along with her project. Here is a link to the

website: https://sites.google.com/view/nbgmedicinalnativeplants/home

Shinault also explained that a main focus of the Environmental Program is global news such as how the war is affecting the environment and the increasing climate change. Shinault described the program to be a lot of work with plenty of individual studies that focus on the community and local areas.

Along with projects and individual studies, Shinault met White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy while attending Congressional meetings. “We have a few presentations there to teach them about the community and the environment,” she said.

Shinault reflected that the experience at the Environmental Studies Program at the Brock Center has been an opportunity for her to expand her knowledge and provide for the community.

“I obviously wouldn’t be where I am now without it. I wouldn’t have had so many opportunities,” said Shinault.