Soul Music from an Educator: Sustainability and Garden Education in Schools
Watson, Theresa Francene
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As a part of growing and strengthening response to environmental and sustainability education initiatives, schoolyard gardens have emerged across the nation and globe. Though the concept of schoolyard gardens has received widespread support and ignited the public imagination, it is increasingly evident that there is an emergent need for place-based teaching models that allow for equitable access and programmatic continuity of such learning spaces. Presently, in-service professional development opportunities remain scarce in this dynamic interdisciplinary area in curriculum and instruction. Further, pre-service training and curriculum development in the context of gardens and place-based education is woefully unaddressed and are at best pet projects scattered "here and there." In other words, both in-service and pre-service training is usually contingent upon a particular group or charismatic/soulful leaders and is seldom integrated into program offerings and specialty training, or in ways that "widen the lens" of environmental and sustainability education. What is desperately needed in the field of education is a line of inquiry and research that illuminates preparation, integration and incorporation of engaged teaching and learning models, and additionally, critically situates schoolyard/community gardens in a larger global/social context, especially inside of varied constraints such as teacher accountability and school reform efforts.This compilation takes a step back and offers an interdisciplinary, conceptual framework for establishing authentic educational partnerships that respond to the above-stated research gaps for school gardens and beyond. The creation of sustainable partnerships across institutional and community spaces is a continuously negotiated and fragile space- not unlike the act of gardening itself. Drawing on Participatory Action Research models, illuminated are some of the social and ecological intricacies of developing strong professional development cultural models that not only allow for "gardens in schools" but more importantly, "schools (children and adults) in gardens." Not only are educational partnerships intimate and intricate between institutional and organizational stakeholders, enlivening collective relationship with the more-than-human world found within eco-literate discourses is also critical. To such an end, four pieces jointly reinvigorate notions of participatory consciousness, possibility and future in education and using the river as guide, explore educational renewal through imaginings such as "watershed consciousness."