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UBC Theses and Dissertations

School gardening, teaching, and a pedagogy of enclosures : threads of an arts-based métissage Ostertag, Julia Kathleen


In conversation with a growing school gardening movement (Williams & Brown, 2012), this arts-based research draws on material feminist and posthumanist (Alaimo & Hekman, 2008; Barad, 2003; Haraway, 2004, 2008) scholarship to reconfigure what it means to become a teacher. In particular, I explore ‘becoming teachers together’ with a garden as a way to reimagine alternatives for the persistent and familiar figure of the teacher as a rational, autonomous individual working within the closed doors of the traditional classroom (Britzman, 2003; Jackson, 1990). Indigenous scholarship, particularly around gift giving (Kuokkanen, 2007) and decolonization (Gaztambide-Fernández, 2012), offers unsettling insights into human and nonhuman entanglements such as the ‘garden-as-teacher.’ In this work, I linger beside (Sedgwick, 2003) both the possibilities and impossibilities of teaching with gardens, compelled to respond (Simon, 2006) to the difficult history of school gardens, particularly during Nazi Germany and in the Canadian residential school system, and the etymological knots that link gardens with material and discursive practices of enclosure. The art theory and practices that shape this research are site-specific installation art (Augaitis & Ritter, 2008; Bishop, 2005, 2012; Bourriaud, 2002; Függe & Fleck, 2006; Kester, 2011), especially collaborations with Vancouver artist Sharon Kallis (Kallis, 2014) and an interview with Ron Benner (Benner, 2008). Responding to O’Donoghue’s (2010) provocation to consider classrooms as installations, I developed the installation series Threads sown, grown & given from April 2012 until August 2014 at The UBC Orchard Garden (a teaching and learning garden at the University of British Columbia) and in the teacher education building. The resulting métissage (Hasebe-Ludt, Chambers & Leggo, 2009) of narratives includes (a) the garden becoming a teacher, (b) student teachers becoming teachers during three research events related to the installation series, and (c) my own personal of becoming a teacher, scholar, and teacher educator. By attending to failure (Halberstam, 2011), this arts-based research creates conditions for what I term a ‘pedagogy of enclosures’ to engage with the ethical responsibilities and limitations of becoming teachers together, particularly in teacher education and garden-based education within the context of settler colonialism and the neoliberalization of the academy.

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