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School Gardens address environmental injustice

Contributed by: Members of the MN School Garden Coalition - Kirsten Saylor, School Garden Specialist Consultant, Saint Paul and Heidi Auel, Discovery Woods School, Brainerd


Nawayee Garden. Minneapolis, MN.
Photo credit: Laurie Schneider Photography
For the last year, we have heard that the system needs to be disrupted in order to be fixed. Covid-19 shook up the playing field for education, and the abhorrent murder of George Floyd was a visual that could not be ignored. Farm to School is a movement to connect kids to where their food comes from, but at this time what more can we do to truly listen, end white silence, and decenter whiteness in this movement.

School Gardens implicitly address environmental injustice in both urban and rural communities, where kids are disconnected from where their food comes from, how to work or even feel fertile soil, and the magic of planting seeds and nurturing seedlings. But we need to go further, ask questions, question assumptions, and open ourselves up to be a learner as well as teacher. If we are not learning from our students on a daily basis, how are we modeling good learning?
  • Should kids see themselves and their cultural community in the school garden? Do they now
  • There are multiple ways of gardening and multiple ways of knowing, how is this validated and honored within the school garden experience? 
  • What are the instructor’s expectations of students in the garden? Is it their garden? Are there multiple ways in which students can let their light shine? 
Like you, we were having multiple webinar trainings and joining book clubs to uncover, reflect, discuss and retrain ourselves in how we work with students and families of color in our educational system.

We would like to direct you to a number of resources: 
  1. Ron Finley, the Gangsta Gardener, how gardening is an act of social and environmental justice. People experience and build a relationship with the plants, soil, insects in the garden. Ted Talk = https://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerrilla_gardener_in_south_central_la?language=en
  2. Dr. Christopher Emdin (https://chrisemdin.com/), a teachers teacher who coaches on how to decenter whiteness from our pedagogical practice. Good for everyone. His book “For White Folks who teach in the Hood” — is good for everyone working together with people of color for a common goal — in this case education. 
  3. Ibram X Kendi (https://www.ibramxkendi.com/), “How to be an Anti-racist” goes into depth the difference between Anti-racist and a non-racist. Here is Marlon James question…Are you an Anti-racist or a non-racist? (https://youtu.be/jm5DWa2bpbs)
To learn more about school gardening in MN and connect with school gardeners, go to http://bit.ly/mnschoolgardennetwork.

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