“My teaching practice has blossomed through the teaching of this course. I have seen pride and joy in my students and they are learning to deal with and work through failures and make connections to their food and the local community.”
We are an alternative school that offers Sustainable Resources 12 as a science course. The course is designed to be highly experiential. Most of the learning takes place in the teaching garden rather than in a classroom setting. We wanted an inquiry project that would have a lasting impact on living sustainably. We began exploring the idea of what living sustainably was. The course has been highly experiential for our students and our focus has been on sustainable food production.
We have been learning about where our food comes from i.e. cucumbers available to buy in the stores in February have come from very far away – this comes with many costs i.e. pesticides, carbon footprint, economy, etc.
As a final project, students each have their own personal box garden where they have selected a theme i.e. root vegetable box, gourmet salad box, Asian vegetable box, etc. and have to plan, plant and harvest by June and share an item they make with the vegetables they grew.
We have used the resources purchased from Be the Change Earth Alliance as our course materials for the class. We have selected modules that focus on personal values for a sustainable world view. Each module contains five to eight student 'Action Packs' that provide research links and experiential activities to develop critical thinking, dialogue, solutions-based actions, small group collaboration and class presentations. In addition, students are keeping a personal learning log of their experiential learning in the community garden and we use our Sustainable Resources 12 Google Classroom web page as a forum for discussions and links to resources.
Change has been very evident in student perspectives with regards to living sustainably. Learning log books are full of insightful reflections, photographs of project success, as well as thoughtful insight into project failures (there were some). Most importantly, students have been challenged to bring their knowledge home and teach their family members. We have had students report on a variety of home projects that demonstrate life-long learning i.e. composting systems. One student built a greenhouse with her father and constructed some garden boxes and has shared her harvests from home with staff and students at school. Another student created pallet gardens made from all recycled materials.
There has been a lot of excitement and interest from other groups in the school and community. Our students mentored two grade 6 classes from a local middle school on how to plan, plant and care for a square foot garden.
My teaching practice has blossomed through the teaching of this course. I have seen pride and joy in my students and they are learning to deal with and work through failures and make connections to their food and the local community. My advice for others would be to create a framework for a course that allows flexibility to be tailored towards the student’s interests. Students are used to being “told” what they need to know and to use a text book to find an objective answer. They are initially uncomfortable with formulating their own questions and often don’t know what to do or where to start when given too much freedom to decide on project content. Next year, this course will continue to grow. We are collaborating with our carpentry program to build a greenhouse and grow shed so we can start growing our seed starts in the winter months with the hopes of having a year round garden.