The 2017 Islandwood Multicultural Environmental Education Conference

         

Our Garden Education class visiting “Green Plate Special” whose mission is to inspire and empower youth to experience food in new ways through gardening, cooking and eating together

This year my classmates and I were asked to speak at IslandWood’s 2017 Multicultural Environmental Education conference on the topic of gardens as sites of multicultural environmental learning.  Prior to the conference our class visited local garden education organizations that aim to make their programs culturally responsive and inclusive to youth in their area.  One such organization, “Green Plate Special,” partners with area classrooms to bring youth not only to the garden but also into the kitchen where they can share food together as a community.

Our goal for the Multicultural EE Conference was to discuss the many garden organizations involved in multicultural EE and to demonstrate the diversity of learning that can take place within a garden.  Gardens are places to bring youth together to learn about stewardship of the environment and their cultural communities.  Gardens act as a metaphor when we consider how important it is to take care of the plants that feed us and the people inhabit our communities.

Here’s a look at the lesson we adapted and brought to the conference: Communi-Tea (http://wp.me/p7RAVF-8Y)

Here I am demonstrating how to integrate community building into garden education at the 2017 Multi-Cultural EE Conference

When I demonstrated this lesson before our conference audience I asked the audience members to think of their individual strengths that they could add to the conference community.  What contributions are they perhaps making by showing up to the conference? What might their organization add to the discussion of multi-cultural education? The very act of adding herbs to the pitcher symbolized their contribution to the conference community.   As each participant added herbs to the pitcher of water, a few people spoke of how important gardens are to creating those connections to place for students.  Although the discussion was just beginning, I was felt very glad that I had been able to leave the audience with questions about community and how gardens are indeed places to have those conversations.

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Our Garden, Our Watershed

During my Formal Classroom Teaching course this spring, I focused on integrative learning and differentiated instruction in the public/private school systems using school gardens as the context. Project Based Learning is an important aspect of this work, as are social justice and equity issues.  

I was tasked with creating a garden lesson that included overarching goals, scope and sequence of work/activities that tie to Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. The lesson need to be replicable, and usable by teachers and garden educators to link classroom lessons and content areas.

The resulting lesson “Our Garden, Our Watershed,” was written for a 7th-8th grade Natural Resources Career Technical Education class at Chinook Middle School in SeaTac, WA.   After having interviewed and observed the class prior to delivering the lesson, the design for this work allowed me to best incorporate identified student outcomes by their grade level and identified teacher needs.   The full lesson is an adaptation of the Nature Conservancy’s lesson “Gardens Filter Rainwater” and can be found below.

It was through this experience of teaching at Chinook Middle that I could see first hand the 1) challenges in transferring experiential garden education into formal classrooms, and 2) the importance of building trust through pre-visits.  I was able to learn more about the students and the classroom climate by observing the 7th-8th grade Natural Resource CTE class beforehand.  It was much easier for me to visualize the lesson’s run of show when I knew what types of classroom management were being used and whether the teacher did or did not engage with her students through discussion or other forms of assessment.

As someone who is new to garden education, I’m looking forward to building relationships with schools and bringing experiential education lessons into the formal classroom.

See the full “Our Garden, Our Watershed” lesson here: http://wp.me/p7RAVF-c5