Tuesday, 2 May 2017

May Day 2017!

May Day – Celebrating Two Cultural and Pedagogical Perspectives on the Garden ~ Claudia Gillard

We began the second week of our CFE by attending and participating in the May Day celebration at University Hill Elementary School where the Tiddley Cove Morris Dancers and Musicians performed and led the children through a May Pole Dance.

The children enjoyed the music, dancing, meeting the horse, and wrapping the ribbons around the May Pole.

We were given a short history of the symbolism of the event, with the explanation that planting the pole in the ground was a symbolic act of fertility. Along with the May Pole, the dancing and singing were meant to welcome the sun back at the start of spring, and encourage a plentiful growing season. What was astounding was that these rituals stretch back as far two thousand years!

                                                                                                    Some of us were literally moved to join in the traditions that connect us to our agricultural ancestral roots. 

This British way of celebrating the garden as a provider of sustenance was in contrast to the Japanese garden we visited next, where the garden represents metaphors and philosophy for living.

We were fortunate to have a tour presented by graduate student, Tsubasa, who explained the symbolism of Japanese gardens. 

We began our tour at the namesake statue of the Nitobe Japanese Gardens. Tsubasa explained that Nitobe was very interested in bridging Western and Japanese societies, and that the UBC Nitobe Japanese Garden represents such a cross-cultural experience.
Before we began our journey into Japanese garden culture, Tsubasa taught us how to interpret various elements in the garden. In general, a Japanese garden represents a microcosm of the larger world, where water and white sand or gravel represent the ocean, rocks in those areas represent islands, and bridges represent connections to other parts of the world 
The walk through the garden also represents
life’s journey: bridges can take one from singledom into the married stage of life, dead-end paths illustrate adolescent missteps or poor choices, and forks in the paths represent significant life choices, where one can take the easier, lower way to the left, or the ‘right’ way that is a steeper, more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding path.
I think I can speak for the group when I say we think we're
definitely on the right path in our choice of CFE!

As we experienced these two different cultural traditions, I came to realize they encompass a cross-curricular approach to learning through gardens, an Arts and Sciences approach to how we can learn from gardens, if you will. The British way of seeing gardening as a food-production system is very much aligned with a science-based curriculum for learning in the garden, while the Japanese garden offered lessons aligned with a humanities-based curriculum.

I love that the day’s embodied experience led me to better understand how gardens can help us teach across the curriculum, and how it did so without telling me, teaching me, or presenting to me the conclusions (learning) I arrived at. Today’s CFE was an example of masterful inquiry-based, garden-situated lesson planning indeed. I am left with a lot to reflect on as I contemplate co-creating an upcoming Orchard Garden Workshop with my cohort.

P.S. It's World Naked Gardening Day May 6, 2017 !!

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