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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The spirit of nature: transforming an inner city school grounds Pevec, Ilene Susan


This action research project began as the revitalization of inner city school grounds through the design and construction of a school and community garden. The project's intent was to give inner city children contact with nature as well hands-on learning experiences in all subjects through the planting, tending and harvesting of vegetables, flowers, and native plants. In partnership with a landscape architecture student, I involved the children, teachers, parents and neighbours of the school in designing and planting the gardens they wanted in order to transform a grass field into a biologically diverse environment reflective of the neighborhood cultures and the indigenous wildlife. Our collaboration became the soil and seeds of an ecological and cultural restoration focused on the First Nations community of the school. People, public art, plant and animal life came together in a dynamic process of education and community change. Inspired by John Dewey's theories of learning through doing, by the work of his Brazilian protege Anisio Teixeira, and by the work of Paulo Freire in adult literacy and political empowerment, this project has been inclusive of members of this culturally diverse community of First Nations and refugee families. The physical transformation of the grounds through First Nations architecture, sculpture and native plants has given visible proof to the community that when everyone works together to create a vision, then cooperates to make it happen, that vision can be realized. My thesis follows the process itself as well as the many questions I have asked throughout about the meaning of pedagogy, leadership, empowerment and collaboration. As an educator with her roots in community activism and teaching for social justice, the Grandview garden has challenged me to reexamine my roots in light of a particular cultural, social and political context where my own vision and voice needed to blend harmoniously with the diverse visions and voices of many others.

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