For this weeks response I completed my Nature Affluence chart, read Nurturing Interconnectedness by Williams and Brown in Learning Gardens and Sustainability Education, Chapter 8 of Education for Sustainable Happiness, chose to read chapter 6 Meno-Bimaadiziwin:Healthy Bodies by Leisa Desmoulins of Indigenous perspectives on education for well-being in Canada, and although I watched all of the videos, I will be speaking mainly to the “Hidden Beauty of Pollination” and “Two Eye Seeing” videos.

I felt that this week’s’ content was not only informative and educational but it was particularly good for the soul.  When watching the Hidden Beauty of Pollination I instantly had goosebumps. I cannot explain why, but something about seeing that process up close and personal with such great detail gave me a sense of excitement and joy. It was amazing to see these pollinators so committed to pollination and to see the symbiotic relationships in nature taking place in front of our eyes. Louie Shwartzberg expressed his hope that after watching his images that people would “plant some seeds that pollinate a friendly garden” (Shwartzberg, 2011). As I will talk about below, this has inspired me to modify some of the planting taking place at my school.

As for the second video, Two-Eyed Seeing, I find that there are several personal and professional connections that I can make with the information provided. I truly appreciate the holistic and cooperative view that was portrayed in this video. Often, in our schools, I hear plenty about incorporating various perspectives into our classes but seldom are we encouraged to find ways to integrate the ‘western’ way of thinking and traditional indigenous models into one all encompassing model.  I think that by creating a partnership and a cooperative relationship between the two worldviews, we would discourage any perceived competition between the differing understandings. Dr. Cheryl Bartlett mentioned that we need to bring the strength of both worldviews together to work together to move forward on this planet together (Bartlett, 2012).

 

This is something that I am trying to do in my classes as well as through extra curricular groups. We are currently planting an urban garden at our school and are now considering adding a Three Sisters Garden, as was mentioned in Nurturing Interconnectedness. A Three Sisters Garden is “a Native American interplanting production system that was traditionally practiced throughout a broad range from the eastern woodlands to parts of Mexico (Gliessman, 1984; Sachs, 1996). Corn, beans, and squash are grown together in mounds of soil.” (Williams & Brown, 2012. p. 141) By planting a Three Sisters Garden we would be focusing on a concept that is already present in our garden, companion planting, and expanding on that it would honor  “cultural understandings of integration and values relationship between people and all living things – two principles of indigenous education….” (Williams & Brown, 2012.  p. 144)

 

Nurturing Interconnectedness also had a large focus on the importance of soil and how it relates to all life and interconnectedness on this planet. Over this last week at school, we had a group of students take part in what we are calling the “Maples Collegiate Farm”…. the name is still a work in progress.  I was just beginning to read this chapter when we took part in our preparation day, but the students had the opportunity to begin work on the farm, feel connections to the soil and the plants, and were most importantly able to learn outside of the classroom by taking part in an educational activity.  As you can see from the pictures below, there is still plenty of work to be done, but the students were eager to work, to learn, and to get their hands dirty.

 

We are going to have one large agricultural plot on the side of the school, additional garden beds and planters both inside of the school courtyard and outside near the sidewalk, and also several raised garden boxes. At this point the students are planting crops that will grow quickly, and can be used for a basic garden salad. Things such as cucumbers, carrots, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, basil, squash and beets have been planted but there is still plenty of space to add new plants. We applied for funding for this project but were rejected once, and are currently awaited our second application with a different organization to be processed. In the meantime, we were lucky that our administration was willing to forward us the start-up funds, basically just the cost of the soil and seeds, to get this project underway on a smaller scale than originally intended. If the grant is accepted, we hope to expand our garden to be three times this size.

In terms of maintenance, we will have phys ed classes and a fellow co-workers’ sustainability-focus science and geography class that will be taking care of the weeding, watering and general maintenance until the end of June. Following that, we have an extra-curricular student group, along with teacher volunteers, that will be overseeing the gardens in the summer. Our division is also in the process of hiring a Farm Coordinator throughout the summer. We are hoping that this person would be able to offer assistance and guidance throughout the summer months as an additional support.

At this point, our program is in it’s infancy stage and we I realize that there is still quite a bit of learning to be done. As I read through Nurturing Interconnectedness (Williams & Brown, 2012) I learned more about the nitrogen cycle, which is something that I did not even really consider. This just goes to show that I too have learning to do, and I am hoping to do so side by side with my students as we move forward through this journey.

Chapter 6 –  Meno-Bimaadiziwin: Healthy Bodies

I felt that this chapter was an obvious choice for me as a physical educator. I wanted to learn more about healthy bodies from a new perspective and thought that it would be a good opportunity to learn more about strategies for teaching our students about maintaining physical health. This chapter focuses on a study that was conducted in three communities in northwestern Ontario.

 

The purpose of this study was to understand how to foster and support Aboriginal children’s healthy weights from Aboriginal perspectives within the contexts of their families and communities, and to use these perspectives to inform the development of contextualized training and resources for Early Child Educators (ECEs) who work with young Aboriginal children.” (Desmoulins, Deer, Falkenberg., 2017. p. 89)

 

The first thing that I noticed and appreciated about this study was that it had a very holistic and community based approach to youth health. The authors realized that in order to teach children to be health, they must practice what they preach, and also must take a multi-faceted approach to a solution. On page 92 they state “successful health interventions are grounded in learning with children, families, and communities.” (Desmoulins et al., 2017) The researchers also took into account the advice and protocols of the community and the elders in which they were conducted the research.

 

One of the most significant pieces of advice that one of the elders gave was “not to use shaming to teach about children’s healthy weights”(Desmoulins. et al., 2012). There was also a notion on page 95, that was derived from a sharing circle and a request from participants to “shift from obesity prevention (focused on size and weight), to ‘healthy bodies’ (focused on children’s health and well-being)” (Desmoulins et al., 2012). I found this to be inspirational and such a positive element to this research. The researching took into account the communities concerns and by tapping into the communities as a resource, they found a much more positive approach to conduct their studies.

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References

Desmoulins, D. (2017). Meno-Bimaadiziwin: Healthy Bodies. In Deer, F., & Falkenberg, (Editors) Indigenous perspectives on education for well-being in Canada. (pp. 89-105). Winnipeg: Education for Sustainable Well-Being Press.

O’Brien, C. (2016). Education for Sustainable Happiness and Well-Being. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Williams, D.R., & Brown J.D. (2012). Nurturing Interconnectedness. In D.R Williams and J.D Brown, Learning Gardens and Sustainability Education (pp. 133-145). New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

 

Videos

Cheryl Bartlett, (November 2012). Two Eyed Seeing. Retrieved from [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CY-iGduw5c]

Louis Shwartzberg, (March 2011). The Hidden Beauty of Pollination. Retrieved from [https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=131&v=eqsXc_aefKI]