Stories on the Land – Learning Gardens
The goal of our project is to host workshops in four local school gardens in Toronto and give 1,000 people the opportunity to listen and participate with Indigenous mentors and storytellers on the importance of food.
What is the problem?
Children and youth who work with us in their edible school gardens have an amazing opportunity to learn on the land. However, the indigenous stories of this land are missing. Many children and youth, especially newcomers, do not know about indigenous history and culture, and could believe that Indigenous cultures are only something of the past.
We will bring Indigenous mentors and storytellers to the gardens, educators who can help children, youth and adults, experience stories of this land told by its first inhabitants. We want to deconstruct colonial curricula, while connecting children and youth to the soil/soul of this land.
Our mission is to work with children, youth and families to grow & prepare fresh garden foods in an environmentally sustainable manner, in hands-on programs. Our vision is healthy communities with edible learning gardens everywhere!
Our school garden partnerships reach 2,100 children and youth each year. The elementary school gardens reach children during the school day, and youth after school. In summer, all ages join together in programs to harvest and create simple recipes with the produce. In the gardens, children and youth plant and harvest a wide variety of crops, and teachers connect the garden activities to their curriculum. What we plan to do is hire more indigenous garden teachers to work with the children and youth. Most of our students and staff hail from all over the world – so while we have stories of our own to tell, we cannot tell stories of this land from an indigenous perspective – only indigenous people can. Food and land are completely connected: so this project re-links the heart of that connection. Each day of indigenous-led programming will reach 100+ children and youth, who are growing up in a dense urban neighbourhood.
- $2,500 Honoraria for presenters (10 days x $250/day)
- $500 Administration and promotion
Many children and youth growing up in dense urban neighbourhoods have not had opportunities to hear directly from indigenous people about the land upon which we are living. Their view of indigenous people may be filtered through the Ontario curriculum which stresses the past, or news stories which stress the enormous damage done by residential schools, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission completed its work. Rarely do young people have the opportunity to hear directly from indigenous people.
The recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, specifically # 62, calls on governments in consultation with educators to “make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.” We want to do our part, as a garden-based-learning educational partner, to honour and act upon this recommendation.
This project brings us together on the land itself, making real and kinaesthetic the stories that indigenous people have to tell. Examples of the storytelling we have had in the past have included traditional animal stories; stories of their family’s traditions in food gathering, including gardening, hunting, and difficult or happy times. When possible, we’ve had a fire going, to cook some tea and Three Sisters Soup – corn, beans and squash. We learned about the power and resonance of this type of event by hearing about it for a full year afterwards from some of our young participants!
The way it works is that teachers bring their classes out during the day, to participate in garden-based learning & hearing from the storyteller, perhaps playing a game, or learning a song, while absorbing lessons about indigenous culture, ways of life and experiences. The program continues after school until 5:00pm, so that youth groups, as well as parents and their young children have an opportunity to hear these incredible stories and share them with their families.