enACT, Hillel and SGA partner to create journaling stations

The new initiative bridges mental health and the environment.

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A bench surrounded by nature. Photo by Assistant Photo Editor, Maddie Ciliento '25.

Spring has come to the Lehigh Valley, meaning that as flowers and temperatures shoot up, so does student stress as the semester draws to a close. However, three student organizations on campus—enACT, Hillel and Student Government Association (SGA)—are seeking to use the beauty of the season to reduce student stress as finals quickly approach. Their plan? To use existing benches nestled in gardens on campus as a place for journaling spots with free journals and prompts for quiet reflection in nature. 

Maddie Davidson ‘25 details how the idea “all started with Ira Blum [‘10] from Hillel, who approached me saying that he was interested in using funds for a community engagement event.” Blum also asked Danny Burden ‘23, the Campus Engagement Chair for SGA, to help with devising a plan for using the funds. Davidson and Burden decided that it would be a great idea to combine enACT’s mission of sustainability with SGA’s mental health initiatives. Davidson drew on her experience working with an environmental arts and education center where they created nature benches in local parks as a blueprint for the journaling stations. The stations will include a number of prompts on top of the station, with a weather-proof cabinet in the back of the station stocked with sustainably-sourced journals. Hillel, enACT and SGA saw nature journaling as the perfect way to incorporate everyone’s values, because, as Davidson states, “being outside with nature boosts people’s moods and makes them feel healthier and better.” 

The journaling stations will be placed in two gardens on campus: the existing Serenity Garden next to the Gabriel House and the Serpentine Garden, near Trexler Library. The focus of the prompts will be different at each site. While the Serenity Garden prompts will be more centered on grounding prompts focused on the current moment, the Serpentine Garden will have more future-focused prompts. The placement of the journaling station in the Serpentine Garden is especially exciting because for years that garden has been locked, neglected and inaccessible to the student body. Thanks to a coordinated effort by the garden club and enACT earlier this semester, the garden has since been restored. The hope is for the journaling station to provide a place of quiet contemplation for students to enjoy the newly reopened space and de-stress towards the end of a busy semester. 

In addition to providing a place of reflection and relaxation, enACT, SGA and Hillel are hopeful the stations will also help students come together. enACT is planning on holding numerous events throughout the month of April as Earth Day approaches. To give students the chance to partake in the new journaling stations, they hope to build the stations in public where students can stop by to help make them. In addition to building the new stations in public, enACT is also going to be holding a make-your-own journal event Friday, Apr. 21 in Fahy Commons to demonstrate what can be done creatively using only sustainable materials. The hope is for this to inspire students to use those journals to reflect and be restored in nature. 

Ultimately, Davidson wants the journaling stations to ensure that students realize “nature is everywhere and it is important to see how people connect with it in their own ways. That is what builds trust, strength, and passion so people feel prepared and ready to act.” 

Matthew '24 is a philosophy and political thought major on the pre-law track.

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