Reimagine Public School System: “Villaging” Classrooms And Beyond!
By Gracelynn Lau
Over the last decades, O.U.R. Ecovillage has been the experiential learning “Living Laboratory” for people of all ages, cultures and professional backgrounds to regenerate their village hearts and minds. It is because we believe that only by remembering how to “live village” – to be in right relationship with ourselves, each other and the earth – we can create a regenerative culture moving forward for our future generation. As we celebrate O.U.R. 20th anniversary this year, our education team is stepping up to take this further to “go village” with local public schools!
Funded by Farm to School BC and The Employment Program of British Columbia, O.U.R. is launching a 11-month pilot project called “Sustainable Living – Sustaining the Environment”, with teachers and students from 3 local elementary and secondary schools in School District 79 (SD 79), to create a South Cowichan project-based learning model and Pro-D training tools for the new BC K-12 Curriculum.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “If we are to reach real peace in the world… we shall have to begin with children.” How would you imagine schooling in a regenerative culture? Let’s pause for a moment to imagine what’s possible…
Can our children go to schools where there is an edible playground in a mini forest and vegetable garden? Can our science classes be a holistic learning experience where students go into the fields with indigenous Elders to learn about native plants and research plants’ nutritional and medicinal values? Can families come together in school to celebrate the local economy? Can our kids explore sustainability by asking questions and interviewing people in our community? Can school be a hub that foster community resilience and belonging?
…And what would be your answers?
It takes a village to raise our children! One of the main focus of the “Sustainable Living – Sustaining the Environment” (SL2) project is to connect parents, indigenous community and schools in fun project-based and inquiry-based learning. Projects include building a cob pizza oven in the schools’ outdoor classroom; setting up “smoothie station” powered by stationary bike; planting mini food forest and vegetable garden, with an on-site composting station and/or vermiculture bin. We will invite indigenous Elders into the school community to share wisdom and traditional ways of being in the world. The entire project will be documented by students-led digital Story-capture to showcase their learning journey across the province, which will also become a part of Pro-D training webinars for teachers across Canada to reference.
Right now we are implementing this pilot project with Mill Bay Nature School, Discovery Elementary School and Frances Kelsey Secondary School. Sounds exciting? This is just a beginning! Our hope is to demonstrate this model through this pilot project and share it with other schools in SD79 and other School Districts. This project is an attempt to localizing the United Nation “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) conversation into the South Cowichan community. Our team works really hard to engage teachers and parents into the SDGs facilitator training this April. Meanwhile, our team is also organizing a field-study trip for the Farm to School Canada Conference (taking place in Victoria this May!). Educators from across the country will get to visit our school partner and exchange ideas.
We invite you to go village with us! Your support and contribution to this pilot project will help sowing seeds to germinate a regenerative culture for our future people. And it will be fun, we promise! If it’s not fun, it is not sustainable!