Teaching “Seven Generations” Thinking in Elementary Schools
What: Four garden plots on an elementary school campus are designated as “Heritage Gardens.” They would start small, and could expand as desired, as space allows, over the years. The plots would be shared in this manner:
The students would name their garden, and plan, install, and maintain improvements to it, with assistance from parents, teachers and other school district employees, and volunteer or paid professionals.
Most significant, every class would keep the same plot until they graduate from the sixth grade. For example, this year’s “kinder-gardeners”, the class of 2013, would stay with their “Wormsville” garden plot until they graduated from the sixth grade in June 2013. They would build their investment in, attachment to, and sense of responsibility for the same piece of land for seven years (“seven generations” of elementary school.)
Every spring, perhaps at Open House or at special event (e.g. picnic, ice cream social), staff, students and their parents would gather at the gardens for an “Inheritance Day” ceremony. There, the graduating sixth graders would pass on the garden to the 2nd graders with whom they have shared it over the past three years.
The following Autumn, those 2nd-turned-3rd graders would have the plot all to themselves. But last year’s 3rd graders, having finished their solo year, would be 4th graders. And they would introduce their garden to the incoming kindergarteners, with whom they would share the garden for their 4th, 5th, and 6th grade years. You can see a schematic representation of this succession over the seven year cycle in Attachment A.
Why: The Heritage Gardens program provides these benefits:
1. Stewardship. The garden will be a working metaphor for our planet. Students will directly experience the rewards of improving their environment and leaving behind a better “world” for future generations.
2. Garden-based education: gardening is a proven vehicle for learning a wide variety of concepts and skills in a way that is appealing to students, including…
3. Consensus building and conflict resolution, in getting the classes to agree on what to do with finite garden resources.
4. Beautification of the campus, reflecting the diversity of the students and the school community
5. Elevated student self-esteem and pride in their school, arising from their seven-year relationship with their garden. This, in turn, contributes to…
6. Reduced installation and maintenance costs, most of which will be done by students, parents and other donors of time and materials. The students’ investment in their garden will support stronger peer pressure against recurring vandalism.