What can a garden do? School gardens as spaces of transformation

Authors: Sallie Marston*, University of Arizona
Topics: Geography Education, Social Theory, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: critical pedagogy, school gardens, community-based learning
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8228, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over the last three decades, research on teaching and learning has demonstrated quite conclusively that out-of-school factors are responsible for most of the variation in student learning. Predominant among the multitude of these factors is structural inequality—poverty—and the high levels of stress, undernourishment and feelings of confusion, anger, shame and acting out behaviors of powerlessness experienced by children in under-resourced US public schools. In this presentation I will discuss how school gardens possess the potential to address the effects of structural inequality on learning as well as build new forms of collective action to undermine them. The first part of the presentation provides a general overview of the dominant logics of a perverse contemporary educational model that casts teachers as technicians operating in an environment where poverty is “no excuse” for poor educational outcomes. The second part employs the nearly decade old University of Arizona Community and School Garden Program—whose mission is “collective action for a more just and sustainable community”—to illustrate an alternative to “no excuses” pedagogy. Here I show how gardens in disadvantaged neighborhood schools can foster emancipatory learning through deep connections to the history and context of the places in which they are situated; and they can do so by building on the cultural pride and funds of knowledge that already exist there. This more transformative form of critical pedagogy can move teachers, students and communities to action against the violence of poverty and toward constructing the conditions that can encourage devalued lives to flourish.

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