Date(s) - April 19, 2019
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
LSC 308, Lory Student Center
What can a garden do? School gardens as spaces of transformation
Sallie A. Marston
School of Geography & Development, University of Arizona
Over the last three decades, research on teaching and learning has demonstrated quite conclusively that out-of-school factors are responsible for most of the variation in student learning. Predominant among the multitude of these factors is structural inequality—poverty—and the high levels of stress, undernourishment and feelings of confusion, anger, shame and acting out behaviors of powerlessness experienced by children in under-resourced US public schools. In this presentation I will discuss how school gardens possess the potential to address the effects of structural inequality on learning as well as build new forms of collective action to undermine them. The first part of the presentation provides a general overview of the dominant logics of a perverse contemporary educational model that casts teachers as technicians operating in an environment where poverty is “no excuse” for poor educational outcomes. The second part employs the nearly decade old University of Arizona Community and School Garden Program—whose mission is “collective action for a more just and sustainable community”—to illustrate an alternative to “no excuses” pedagogy. Here I show how gardens in disadvantaged neighborhood schools can foster learning through deep connections to the history and context of the places in which they are situated; and they can do so by building on the cultural pride and funds of knowledge that exist there. This more transformative form of pedagogy can move teachers, students and communities past critique to action against the violence of poverty and toward constructing the conditions that can encourage devalued lives to flourish.
About the Speaker
Sallie A. Marston’s work is located at the intersection of socio-spatial theory and politics. She is particularly interested in how different sites shape the production of subjectivities. At the empirical level she focuses on everyday spaces—neighborhoods, streets, the home, the studio and the lab—and the mundane “doings” and “sayings” that constitute them. Her most recent research examines how experiential learning in school gardens and their wider campus ecologies shapes the subjectivities of low-income children, particularly the ways collaboration and caring for human and non-human nature produces an ethical subject able to engage with a complex world of “others”.