||This presentation is based on an ongoing project with a grade 3 / 4 classroom in a Winnipeg inner city school to engage community members. Cooking food, as well as growing it, has been integrated in the project. These learning experiences are literally grounded (Williams & Brown, 2012) in the encounter with the elements, earth, air, water and fire (energy).
The romantic notion of the garden that may be found in many too coffee table books cannot be sustained by those who actually work in the garden. They know it as a place of growth and also a place of mould, rot and insects. Observing and working in a garden includes many diverse experiences. Diversity in an ecosystem assures resilience (Capra, 2005). Diversity in a culture can also provide resilience. However, the term “diversity” can be problematic when it is refers to being other than the dominant group: “ Diversity, like cultural deprivation and the state of being at risk, is that “thing” that is other than White and middle class” (Ladson-Billings, 1999). In constructing a school garden to reflect the diversity of the school community (Stone & Barlow, 2005), educators need to discard the concept of “the norm” and respond to the variety and difference in their teaching context. Awareness of the context of teaching and learning is central to place-based learning (Stevenson, 2008), a framework to support education for sustainability.
What grows in a school garden is more than plants; the garden includes varied aspects of life and learning. There is food, of course, for people and other living things. Work in a garden allows students to produce something of substance; food they can eat and share with others (Ozer, 2007). The food is produced through the interaction of the human and non-human environment. The school garden becomes a place for studying those interactions (Stone & Barlow, 2005): learning about soil, water, and light; studying insects, birds and animals that are part of the life of a garden. Attending to interactions in the garden and witnessing the interdependency within the garden system can build students’ understanding of the connection between interdependency and sustainability in their class and in their school community (Williams & Brown. 2012).
Environmental education for sustainability has been characterized as relevant, holistic, values oriented, issue-based, action-oriented and critical education (Tilbury, 1995). Integrating these characteristics into daily life in the elementary classroom can be both daunting and inspiring. Gardens are one valuable place for learning experiences that become significant by being linked to the primary need to find/make food, a fundamental component of education for sustainability (Parjouli, 2001).