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A Garden + A Bunch of Cool Folks = A Lifetime of Learning.

Written July 1, 2014

This is a reflection piece on this 6-week contract that I just finished with the organization The Julien Project. I got to work/play/explore with six grade 7 students in a wonderful garden space. Thought I’d share this letter to the founders, those that helped make it happen.

Program Evaluation – Holy Trinity Spring 2014

As a new instructor with the Julien Project I, Paul, wasn’t sure what to expect from the program with the Holy Trinity group. I came to the Courtyard at the Ignatius Centre in Guelph—our training grounds, our home base—with a full agenda of activities and a plan of action. When the students arrived I felt nervous, wondering if they would enjoy the activities I had planned. What I soon found was that they were happy just to be in a place where they could wander, a place to explore and play—a place to be. When I saw that, my nervousness slid away and, with the help of two amazing assistant programmers, we got into the activities! The Holy Trinity team participated in activities in horticulture and gardening, self-awareness and self-care, collaboration and teamwork:

–       Circle Process: every day, at the beginning and the end, we made time and space to check in with how we were feeling and reflect on the day.

–       Food Production: we shared techniques to prepare seeds for planting, tend soil beds for growing, handle seedlings for transplanting, care for growing plants (i.e., watering, weeding, organic nutrient cycles, etc.).

–       Creativity: we chose names that described who we wanted to be (e.g., Banana Allan Rooster) and made collaborative, expressive art pieces to share with community.

–       New Perspectives: in addition to active listening in the circle process, we also took on roles of different species in our ecosystem (i.e., pollinators, pests and predators) and practiced roles in leadership, support, teamwork, and friendship.

These activities, along with the many others that tied into nature, community, food, and life, helped to develop many skills in these young people. In our limited time, I saw them grow in the way they listened to each other; in how they respected guidelines and felt comfortable challenging existing rules in a respectable way; in how they worked together as a team to complete common goals; in how they felt comfortable pushing their literacy boundaries; in how they grew in their personal roles as leaders and shared their skills. I’m proud of them and I’m happy they shared as much as they did because they helped me to develop, too.

During our closing circles they said, “I want this to stick.” They said, “I love being here and I love how everyone is so nice to me.” They said, “I want to come back.” I couldn’t agree more. The program is a huge success. The seeds are planted, both physically and metaphorically, for a positive future harvest.

Thank you for your support. It’s allowing for these students, allowing for us, allowing our whole community to grow and feel fulfilled.

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