Friday, 8 May 2015

CFE Week Two: A Real Kindergarten!

Children are like plants and teachers are the gardeners. This idea is not a new one. In fact, this idea was the foundation basis of Friedrich Fröbel's educational approach of a "kindergarten".Working with students and seeing a variety of different gardens this week further illustrated this analogy.

Poster from the Landed Learning Program
at the UBC Farm.
This past week, Pailin and I were given the opportunity to teach at a Montessori elementary school. We taught twelve groups of 5-6 students about various ways that we as gardeners can help plants to flourish. There are so many "plant enemies" in the garden that can kill the plant: weeds, bugs, and disease, to name a few.

Similarly, there are lots of "learning enemies" that can crop up in the classroom that try to prevent children from achieving their full potential. For example, some students may not have the academic or emotional support they need in order to excel. They may not be supported by their peers or family to do well or learn. These problems are like weeds which drain the students' energy. Students may not have enough money or food to give them the sustenance and energy needed to concentrate. They are not getting the "fertilizer" or "water" that they need in order to grow.  As gardeners, we can try our best to help students overcome these problems.

We visited the Greenhouse on campus and saw lush, bountiful plants. The conditions in the greenhouse were ideal for seeds to become seedlings; there was just enough water and sun for the plants to really flourish. Brendan Chan, our guide, expressed shock at how well the kale seedlings were doing in the planters. He said that they were doing so well that they needed to be planted as soon as possible, so they could have more space; at the moment, they were crowding each other and needed thinning.
We thinned out the swiss chard in the greenhouse
 We can see that providing an ideal environment can help the growth of plants. Providing an ideal environment where students are encouraged to grow and learn and given tools to do so helps students to achieve their full potential as well.

Abounding kale in the greenhouse!
Last Tuesday, we direct seeded beets into the Orchard Garden. To our dismay, when we checked on our garden nine days later, there were no beet seedlings that had sprouted. Even though we had not been assigned to go to the Orchard Garden this week, Pailin and I went anyway and weeded and watered our plants. We had grown to care for our garden and cared about how well the seedlings would grow. Oftentimes, in teaching, because we want to help the students out, we may volunteer our time before or after school to give those students the individual help that they need for free. What's free for the receiver always comes at the expense of the giver.
Weeding at the Orchard Garden
It was disheartening to see that the seeds had not sprouted. Had we done something wrong? When we looked on the surface of the soil, we did not see any sprouts. However, looking at the surface does not give us the whole story. The surface is not necessarily indicative of what is undernearth. Perhaps the seed is growing and has taken root. Similarly, as teachers, we do not know what is happening inside our students. Assessment only tells us so much.

The analogy that children are like plants and teachers are like gardeners is an illustruous analogy that helps us to understand the importance of a teacher's guidance in a child's life. However, there is one big difference between children and plants: volition. Plants cannot think or choose to do things. Children, on the other hand, can think and can choose. They can actively choose to grow in knowledge and understanding. They can make their own choices that enable them to grow more. The other side of the coin is that children can also choose not to learn and not to grow. My hope is that we can, as educators, encourage students to choose learning and to choose growth.
The dry and barren beet plant bed. What's going on under the surface?

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