Less than an hour long commute from their homes in east Vancouver, a group of eight year olds tend to their crop at the UBC farm. Like most inner-city children, they have never been on a farm, let alone had the opportunity to sink hands into the earth, nor feel the satisfaction of growing their own food. As the sun warms their bodies, the children begin to see how the steaming soil they tend is connected to the air they breathe; how a Vancouver afternoon rain helps nurture their planted seeds, and how the natural world where they live, play, and garden is connected to the meals they share with family and friends.
Designed to re-imagine and reconstruct the farm experience, the Intergenerational Landed Learning Project (ILLP), in collaboration with UBC’s Faculty of Education, is giving children in Vancouver’s urban centre the chance of a lifetime. Funded solely by grants and donor support, this initiative offers authentic outside-of-the-classroom learning opportunities for children, as they work side by side with a diverse group of people of many ages who have spent their lives learning from the land.
Through experiential learning, mentorship, and place-based learning, the project explores how participation in an urban farming project can foster environmental consciousness, respect for nature, and an understanding of food-land issues. “When children take care of the earth, they learn to take care of their home,” says Jolie Mayer-Smith, the Landed Learning Project’s co-creator and professor emerita in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the UBC Faculty of Education. “If there’s one thing that we want our kids to remember, it’s that everything is connected to everything.”
Landed Learning provides opportunities for educators to gain real-world experience in hands-on inquiry-based learning. UBC student mentors support children as they push their first wheelbarrow or peer inside a honey-bee hive. UBC teacher candidates and graduate students complete practica with Landed Learning, exploring subjects such as interdisciplinary curriculum through the garden, community-engaged learning, social and emotional learning, and place-based learning. In-service teachers build confidence and inspiration to use their own school gardens as outdoor classrooms through Landed Learning Professional Development workshops.
By researching the challenges teachers face when they integrate environmental field-based experiences into their curriculum, how intergenerational landed learning can influence the environmental consciousness of children, and how these experiences will influence their daily lives, this unique project is providing children with a new way to learn, while investigating ways in which young people can develop a better understanding and appreciation for the land. The potential impact on the future stewards of the earth is tremendous, one eight-year-old from Vancouver at a time.
Support for the Intergenerational Landed Learning on the Farm for the Environment Project ensures that we can continue to discover new ways to improve learning experiences as well as promote sustainability among children.