CCL LLPfinal2007

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Published on December 28, 2007

Author: Alexan

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Slide1:  Intergenerational Learning at UBC Farm: Fostering Human and Environmental Health Linda Peterat, Jolie Mayer-Smith, and Oksana Bartosh Department of Curriculum Studies, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC Canada V6T 1Z4 PURPOSE To understand the mutual learning that occurs for children and elders in an intergenerational environmental education project. To understand the health benefits that can result from an intergenerational environmental education project and the ways these benefits can be facilitated and sustained. SETTING The project now in its fifth year is located at UBC Farm, an urban farm on the margins of the university campus. Each year three classes of grade 4 to 7 students come to the farm on 12 occasions during September to June and work in small groups with community elders and UBC students (farm friends) to plant, nurture and harvest food crops and flowers. The teachers collaborate to create ways of integrating their classroom curriculum with the children’s learning at the farm. At the farm the children learn sustainable food growing practices, how to grow and care for their gardens, and nutritious food preparation. The community elders share their expertise, farming histories and experiences. The children also learn about other UBC Farm activities including bee-keeping, chickens and egg production, the eco-systems of the market garden and adjacent forest. INFORMING PERSPECTIVES Rachel Carson wrote that she would (if possible) endow every child with "a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life." However, "if a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Ecological citizenship can be fostered through an apprentice type relationship with adult mentors in a community of practice (Wenger, 1998). McNamee (1997) claims that ecological caring develops gradually over time through caring interpersonal relationships in families. We sought to replicate these relationships in the intergenerational partnering of community elders with farming backgrounds and children. While it is accepted that intergenerational programs contribute to the learning of both the young and elders (Kaplan, 2004), there are few theorizing efforts to characterize the nature of this learning. METHODS Interviews and focus groups with community elders were conducted in the first, second, and fifth years of the project. The children were interviewed at the beginning, middle and end of the project each year. Students who participated in the project in the first two years were recently interviewed to assess the long term impacts of the Farm experience. Insights included here are drawn primarily from recent data. We gratefully acknowledge the support of: Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia B.C. Youth in Agriculture Foundation Vancouver School Board Rona Home and Garden McLean Foundation Canadian Home Economics Foundation VanCity Imperial Oil Foundation NSERC - PromoScience DASH/MEIA Canadian Tire Burnaby Coe Lumber University Neighborhoods Association The Natural Gardener Farm Credit Canada Hampton Place Fund Rex Boughton Endowment Fund Hewer Home Hardware Kwantlen University College Fashion Program Department of Curriculum Studies and Faculty of Land and Food Systems, UBC John H. M. & Doris D. Andrews Research & Development Award Adult Learning Knowledge Centre/Canadian Council on Learning Contact: linda.peterat@ubc.ca or jolie.mayer-smith@ubc.ca. Visit our website at http://www.cust.educ.ubc.ca/landedlearningproject/index.htm 1. Food growing is a hands-on, wholistic bodily practice that contributes to all facets of human health and well-being. You get outside and you are doing something active. (farm friend, 2007) Being outside and close to nature is definitely a health benefit for me psychologically – it’s a source of strength for me and a sharing kind of thing – that’s what I like to talk to people about. (farm friend, 2007) As well as the physical health of eating things you grow there is also a real spiritual health and emotional health benefit that goes with it. (farm friend, 2007) Instead of just sitting there and learning from a book, you are doing it and experiencing it first hand. It’s better. (student, 2004) UBC Farm is just a magic place. (farm friend, 2007) Being outside and getting the birds around you…It is beautiful out there. (farm friend, 2007) I really like being outside and like being able to be one with the ground. I like just being outside and being a part of nature (student, 2004) FINDINGS 2. Multi-generational groups and the relationships that develop within them are rich in learning and rewards for both the children and the adults. The caring social relationships that develop are a significant context to develop caring for plants, living things, and the earth. I really like the connection and the relationship that develops over the year with those 3 kids. I really look forward to seeing them each time and a nice bond comes from working together. (farm friend, 2007) What I get out of the project mostly is watching the kids’ enthusiasm and the way they get along. (Farm friend, 2007) At first we were kind of uncomfortable with him but now we just talk and stuff. Sometimes we talk about school and then he tells us tips about stuff…. At first I thought it’d be boring but then I liked hanging out with Don and getting to know him. And, I never liked farming before. So I really like it now. (student, 2004) 3. Food and food growing is extremely powerful in facilitating understanding of the interconnections between humans and the earth and the inseparability of human and environmental health. When you pull something out of the land and put it in your mouth it is a super obvious cue that it becomes part of me and maybe I should take care of the land it comes from, the air and water and all the things that filter into the soil. It’s a very tangible, non-abstract way of experiencing that miracle or sense of awe and wonder…. (farm friend, 2007) Through planting you learn lots of lessons [of] life. You learn that you have to be cooperative with other people in order to get things that you want. In order to grow a plant you have to work with others…. It teaches you about the environment and how it interacts with things around it; like how the insect interacts with the plant and how the plant interacts with us and how we really depend on each other. (student, 2004)

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