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The Learning Gardens Laboratory: Teaching Sustainability and
Developing Sustainable Food Systems Through Unique Partnerships
by Heather Burnsa,* and Weston Millerb
http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2012.023.003, pp. 69–78
Garden-based education programs at the Learning Gardens Laboratory (LGL) in Portland, Oregon, have been developed in a partnership between Portland State University and Oregon State University in order to advance the development of sustainable food systems and sustainability education. Learning gardens serve as rich sustainability learning sites due to their ecological and sociocultural benefits, and provide a hands-on way for students to engage in interconnected issues and begin to participate in solving complex problems. At LGL there is an understanding that developing sustainable food systems also requires teaching and learning practices that reflect the goals of sustainability education. Our primary pedagogical influences are drawn from permaculture, deep ecology, ecological design, and sustainability pedagogy. A number of pedagogical principles serve as a framework for teaching sustainability holistically at LGL, including: (1) Interdisciplinary learning; (2) place-based learning; (3) active and engaged learning; (4) relationship-building; (5) multiple perspectives; and (6) systems thinking and interconnectedness. These pedagogical principles are discussed in relationship to the educational programs taking place at the Learning Gardens Lab, and we highlight two successful programs developed by our universities: the Beginning Urban Farming Apprenticeship program, and the Lane Middle School Garden-Based Education program. We also address learning that has arisen from key challenges that we face at LGL.
Keywords: garden-based education, middle school garden-based education, sustainability education, sustainability pedagogy, sustainable food systems, university partnerships, urban farming apprenticeship
b Community and Urban Horticulturist; Coordinator, Learning Gardens Laboratory; Oregon State University Extension Service, Portland Metro Region; 200 Warner-Milne Road; Oregon City, OR 97045 USA;
Banner photos include a Cape Cod cranberry bog; a cranberry “screen house” used to grade fresh cranberries; farmland near Lake Placid, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains; Montmorency cherry trees on the Mission Peninsula of northern Michigan; the historic Round Barn in the South Mountain Apple Belt of Adams County, Pennsylvania; the “Sea of Grapes” district of the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, near Erie, Penn; a field of cabbages near Shortsville, NY, home to one of the world’s largest sauerkraut factories. All photos copyright by Duncan Hilchey.
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