Reflections on the garden project
The pedagogical opportunities afforded to children at The Patch Primary School as part of the new garden project initiative correlate with a key question posed earlier in 'Children's place in sustainability education' about how children might be given opportunities to express their ideas about the world. In the learning context described throughout this chapter, the combination of a garden setting and applied pedagogical and design frameworks are brought together to create a dynamic and innovative learning environment that privileges children's ideas about their everyday world of a school garden, and their inhabitation of it. Unlike many school garden projects and school grounds in general that are designed and constructed on behalf of children and through limited consultation with them (an issue explored further in the chapter 'In the kitchen garden'), educators at The Patch make transformational pedagogical decisions that prioritise the slow and unhurried process of learning that will involve listening to and harnessing children's ideas about the new garden space. While adults take responsibility for developing the overarching pedagogical frameworks, children take centre stage as designers who are encouraged to consider the future through designerly ways of thinking. While the context of the learning in this chapter is specific to garden design, the design pedagogies of inclusivity, diversity, participation, communication and consultation that inform and shape new possibilities for curriculum and collaborative learning could be viewed as applicable to a range of learning environments.
Inherent within the design pedagogies and models of learning are distinctive forms of communication that genuinely honour the strong views students have about their school ground surroundings, which are expressed through a range of multimodal communications. In this work children's everyday learning involves them being able to communicate their ideas and values about 'what they like, what they have and what they would like to have' (Lucas, 1995, p. 236). These pedagogical realities emerge as a consequence of diverse and embodied learning opportunities that children experience through garden visits, research, mapping, model designs, garden construction, measuring, digging, growing and harvesting food. Essentially learning is framed and informed by discourses of imagination, creativity and possibility that give children permission to 'think big' and in different ways as they envisage the future; a notion that will serve them well in a changing world.
What do these pedagogies imply about children? Firstly, they assume that children are astute observers of their everyday worlds who have intimate and extensive knowledge about what goes on in these places. Secondly, children are capable of working with higher order problem solving and investigative pedagogies that consider multiple perspectives, opinions, viewpoints and ways of understanding. Children's capacity to access and utilise a combination of scientific, scholarly, artistic and ecological ways of knowing tell us that children can and will locate and draw on a range of interdisciplinary knowledges as a way of sense making. Finally, children are dynamic, independent and resilient thinkers who are willing and motivated to participate in projects that value their ideas; a belief that was consistently voiced by children at The Patch who knew 'it was the kids that made it happen'.
It's not like teachers just came and did it by themselves. But the kids are actually like part of it. They just get to have a say, and if their parents come down they get to say, 'oh look, I planted this and that', all of the ideas were from kids.
(Dylan, age 10)