Sunday, 11 June 2017

CFE Day 5: Roots of Diversity and Soundscapes

Roots of Diversity

Today we discussed an article: " Roots of Diversity: Growing Culturally Significant Plants in the Classroom" by Allan Foster. You can access the article hereThis article discussed the benefits of including plants from different cultures in a classroom garden program and how they might act as a way to welcome and represent diversity in the Canadian classroom. I was curious about what type of plants can be grown on a windowsill, and thought this was a great idea to bring the green outdoors into the inside classroom.

In our discussion, we brought forward questions such as: where to find information on "culturally significant" plants, how can students be more involved in the maintenance of the plants and how to incorporate "Canadian Culture" and Indigenous perspectives in this practice.

Some of our questions raised some concerns regarding things that Teachers should be aware of when beginning a windowsill garden program with plants from different cultures. Our focus was to be careful of cultural appropriation and stereotyping cultures. For example, Kirstie mentioned that although she is a Chinese person, she does not associate with ‘Lucky Bamboo’ and all Chinese people may not associate with this plant in that way. We agreed that it would be a good shift of focus from overarching culture to focusing on the personal connections each student would have with a plant that may or may not include a different culture. 

Finally, during the last part of our discussion we talked about the curriculum connections that can be made with plants and gardening. This was Natalie's favourite part of the discussion as everyone had such amazing ideas about how to incorporate gardening into every subject in various grades! 

In particular, we saw that the concept of the "Pocket Garden" could be a good cross-curricular activity to tie ideas together. We emphasized the importance of getting students to physically engage with plants not just to observe.


 Next we welcomed our guest speaker John Ames, who introduced us to the concept of “Soundscaping”. This is essentially any collection of sounds within a given space, which can be paralleled with the idea of “Landscape” except with sounds instead of visuals. According to John, Soundscaping is based on the idea that using all of our senses instead of just visual helps us expand our perspective of the world around us, and that there is a relationship between basic movements and their sounds. 

We did an experiment were we needed to pair two words: "Kiki and Bouba" to two shapes without any further prompting. Everyone had associated Kiki with the sharp edged shape and Bouba with the blob shape. The word Kiki has quick, sharp intonation ( how its said) whereas Bouba is a softer, more fluid sounding word. John explained that it is a phenomenon where our concept of language reflects the characteristics of the things that we are trying to describe or their functions. 

We transitioned into our Soundscape workshop in the Garden. We took 10 minutes to listen to the sounds around us. Categorizing each sound based on if we considered them Humans, Nature, or Technology. We could represent what we hear in any way we want, limiting the amount of writing we could include. We then got into groups to find materials to replicate the same kinds of sounds we heard previously. 

 Here are two samples of the sounds that we were surrounded with and later created.  Can you tell which one is which?

Some Reflections: Today was a good exercise in awareness, both in terms of our role has teachers as we make curricular decisions as well as on a personal level, how in tune are we with the state of the spaces we inhabit? It was surprising has to how naturally the Garden could be integrated into the curriculum. As the week has gone by, we are all seeing the substantive connections students can make both in the workshops and the hands on gardening itself. 

In relation to Soundscaping, a valuable point to make is that we saw that all things that we associated with nature had their own rhythm that brought calmness. But technology proved to be horribly pervasive and distracting from the other sounds. This is a good lesson for any person to take a moment to stop to listen and reflect on the influence that technology has on our lives regardless if it is in our hands or just around us. 

Pictorial Updates from the Garden:

Swiss Chard is almost ready for harvest!
Zucchini is starting to blossom!
Peas are secured for more steady growth.

- Kirstie and Natalie


  1. Thanks Kirstie and Natalie! I was trying to open the two sound files, but I couldn't seem to open them. Could you please check to see if they're working? Many thanks.

    1. (I couldn't open the video either -- would love to see it! )