Saturday, 5 May 2012

Alternative Practicum: Reflections from Week 2

Alison & Lauren have been busy at work planting and weeding The Orchard Garden, considering how to plan and design a school garden, visiting other learning gardens in Vancouver, and doing individual research on pollination, place-based education, garden-based curriculum, and much more!  Here are their reflections from this week:

Alison & Lauren weed our asparagus patch
Lauren's reflection:  
 Last summer four women, including myself, biked south from Vancouver, BC to
Tiajuana, Mexico. We were in search of people that had followed their ideas to live a
more creative and sustainable life. Upon my return to Vancouver, BC, I have had the
ever present feeling of nostalgia for this bike tour. I miss the people, the ideas, the risk
taking, and that oh-so-amazing feeling of earthly goodness that occurs when people are
doing what makes them happy and it aligns with, for lack of a better word, goodness.
Having the time and focus to research, converse with peers, question, plan, and search
on this alternative practicum has been nothing short of amazing. It is rare, I think, to feel
like your work is your play. By this I do not mean easy, I mean intrinsically motivated.
This week The Alternative Practicum Pair, Alison and I, brainstormed and visually
planned out our dream school gardens. I had an epiphany that learning gardens did not
merely have to be ʻby the bookʼ school gardens. Oh no, they could be spiral wheat and
rye plantings that could be used for weaving. Gardens could be planted with all of the
richest of pigment plants for natural dying in the art room. The creation of a school
garden, could in fact, mimic the creative process. It can be more than a link of PLOʼs, it
can be the curriculum. I also realized that itʼs valuable to dream, but also good to learn
the facts and possible road blocks of incorporating learning gardens and outdoor
classrooms into the curriculum.
We also had the opportunity to visit some amazing projects and learn from some
amazing folks in the field. We joined a morning grade 9 Home Economics class for an
Edible Tour of an inner-city farm with Tess, a very knowledgeable and engaging citizen of
the ʻmeaningful foodʼ club. Numerous community centered projects are run at the
organic urban farm, including CSA shares. It is a gem of land and I urge anyone who
hasnʼt visited, to do so.
We also ventured out to a secondary school in Deep Cove to see what the school
garden was like there. We experienced the positive energy of the school from the
moment we walked through the front doors. The learning garden is composed of four
raised beds and is mostly teacher lead, as far as maintenance and planning goes. A few
classes make curricular use of the garden, such as the Foods class and the Biology
class. All of the food from this garden is donated to low-income community members,
which is a wonderful way to bridge the school and the community.
Yesterday, May 3rd, we worked in the rain and mud on-site at The Orchard Garden in
good spirits. We revived the herb garden and searched for the asparagus, one of my
favourite growers. In the afternoon, we had the amazing experience of a visit to another secondary school on the east side of Vancouver.  The visit was lead by three Leadership class students. I was,
almost, speechless! The amount of student leadership, responsibility, knowledge, and
experiential learning going on was enough to get any B.Ed student excited! There is a
bike/compost pick-up program, a vermicompost, raised beds, berries, greenhouse
(student built), fish, hydrogen/nitrogen/ water closed system grower, etc! It blew my
I am amazed and I feel so lucky to have found the same excitement I found on my bike
tour to Mexico. Itʼs so energizing and encouraging to connect with dedicated, motivated,
creative, good-souled people all working on projects and ideas to make this world a
positive space for all to live.
Thank the Land,

Alison's photo of a visit to a learning garden

Alison's reflection:
What a week! Building on last week’s momentum, things really took off these past five days. Again, time is of the essence as we worked to schedule meetings for garden design, curriculum development, outdoor work and visits to several garden spaces in the city. The visits to different garden sites also seemed to build on each other in terms of structure and student/teacher engagement. We participated in a Home Economics 9 class visit to an off-site farm, where students were given an edible tour of an urban farm close to their school. Almost all of the students had seen the farm on their way to and from school, but none had actually stopped to visit or ask questions before this point. Almost all were happy to get involved in some weeding, and a few students expressed interest in volunteering- Future urban farmers in the making!
The other two visits took place on-site at each school’s location. The first garden had been developed through a teacher initiative, and was used as an instructional space on occasion by several classes. While the garden wasn’t wholly integrated into school programming, it was a positive addition to the school’s atmosphere, and can be enjoyed by all students, staff and community members who spend time in the common area. The second garden was a sight to behold - a full loop system that incorporates compost from neighboring schools. The program was developed five  years ago by a teacher interested in gardening, and it has developed into a student run initiative that has been integrated into each grade through the Leadership program.  I am so inspired to see youth stepping up and taking active roles in this project. 
I feel so fortunate for the opportunities I have been afforded through this practicum so far. My only wish would be to have more time to explore these practices. I can’t believe there’s only one week left!

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