Goal Area 2: Teaching & Learning

Cultivating Place will promote an academically rigorous approach that will develop and communicate new understandings and insights on issues of global significance, develop and refine innovative teaching content and methods, and foster lifelong learning and teaching among generations. To that end, Cultivating Place will:

  • Be responsive to the needs of learners, emphasize integrative, interactive, and experiential learning, and build on UBC’s best disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and trans-disciplinary programs;
  • Integrate multiple forms of knowing, learning, teaching and understanding into the student experience, preparing global citizens with a broad knowledge base, a sense of responsibility for a sustainable future, and strong leadership skills;
  • Facilitate ‘complete projects’ in which students have stewardship responsibility for the entire life-cycle of an activity including conception, design, implementation, analysis, and evaluation;
  • Highlight, vivify, and exemplify the relationship between theory and practice;
  • Manage dynamic physical landscapes as living outdoor classrooms, offering innovative learning experiences that explore the connections between cultivated, forested, and urban areas, reveal the ecosystem services these landscapes provide, and explore techniques and technologies for sustainable management of these systems;
  • Facilitate and advance the scholarship of teaching sustainability and the transmission of knowledge, encouraging new pedagogies in this area and research into those pedagogies.

Precedent: A Garden for Teaching and Learning

A cascade of learning across generations begins with the planting of a single seed. UBC’s Faculty of Education brings children to the UBC Farm for immersive and transformative learning experiences in the Children’s Learning Garden. Under direct mentorship from faculty, seniors and UBC students, the children learn the practices of ecosystem stewardship, agriculture, health and nutrition, and gain fundamental math and science skills. Research elements of the project push the boundaries of pedagogical knowledge and have been widely disseminated in academic literature. The project has sprouted a suite of on-farm children’s programs, some working with aboriginal students and elders, others running through the summer for seamless continuity through the seasons. This model is being spread through the province in work with regional school districts, providing UBC students and faculty the opportunity to use innovative pedagogy to build environmental literacy in the next generation.

Related Links

Teaching and Learning: Current Successes

Innovative sustainability learning is currently at the heart of the UBC Farm’s academic programming. The Farm provides a unique “outdoor classroom,” where learners of all ages can immerse themselves in the stewardship of a working, productive landscape, linking society’s most pressing global challenges to relevant, practical solutions that are achievable through a better understanding of the role that managed ecosystems play in supporting societies. This programming keeps a highly student-centred approach, and students take a leading role in their learning, and in the ongoing operations and strategic direction for the farm. Through curricular and co-curricular teaching and learning, more than 2,500 students currently participate in on-farm activities annually. Students in 50 courses representing eight faculties as well as four UBC schools and both colleges actively used the Farm in 2008. On-farm learning is integrative – bridging multiple disciplines and traditions – and inherently applied, providing community service, participation in research projects, and active stewardship of the landscape. Students have the opportunity to actively change the landscape of the farm, in turn, are changing the landscape of applied sustainability learning at UBC and beyond.

Related Links

Learning sustainability on the farm : exploring academic programs at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems – This MSc thesis by Gavin Wright assesses the academic impacts of some of the curricular learning taking place at the UBC Farm in 2007-08.

Teaching and Learning: A Future Direction

Immersive Sustainability in a Farm-integrated Residential College: One component of theCultivating Place vision is to develop a world-class facility that will bring students, faculty, staff, and visiting “sustainability laureates” together in a residential college that is built to physically integrate with, and mimic the flows and cycles of, its surrounding ecosystem. Providing multi-functional services, the college will model a system that is net zero waste, net positive clean water, and net carbon negative. South Campus would sustain college residents, literally and academically, through a fully immersive set of programs that would make the residence a hub and a conduit for innovative, globally significant applied research on key sustainability issues.

Teaching and Learning: Recommendations

1. Expanded Student Opportunities and Curricular Development: Work with the proposed University Sustainability Initiative (USI) to connect to existing curricular and co-curricular learning opportunities on South Campus and to develop new opportunities.

The proximity of the farm system to the main campus offers accessible experiential and transformational learning for students who are able to directly link sustainability theory with practical applications through field studies on site. The curricular and co-curricular learning on South Campus will be expanded to provide students in the natural and physical sciences as well as the arts, social sciences, and humanities the opportunity to immerse themselves in the processes and practices of sustainability that come into focus at the intersection of land, food, and community. Student opportunities range from general exploration and analysis of the farm-forest-community system to specific active research projects on site. Student-directed projects at both the undergraduate and graduate level will actively contribute to the evolution of South Campus. Working with the proposed University Sustainability Initiative (USI), opportunities for expanded sustainability-related courses will be identified and connections formalized with existing UBC Farm-related courses. Farm staff and USI staff will work collaboratively with Faculty to develop new courses and modules that incorporate experiential learning, and diversify and develop curricular requirements to offer flexible and integrated learning experiences.

2. Associate memberships for Faculty: Formalize a process for existing UBC Faculty members and adjuncts to become Associates of the UBC Farm.

Associate membership will have clearly defined benefits, including facility use, the potential for collaborative opportunities with fellow associates through symposia and dialogue sessions, and connections to a diverse community of outstanding students, sustainability-oriented faculty members, and community leaders. Responsibilities of associate membership will include contributions to UBC Farm governance, facilitating on-site learning at the undergraduate and graduate level, disseminating research, and acting as ‘ambassadors’ for the Centre in home faculties. Opportunities to link new research chairs and post-doctoral fellowships specifically to landbase will be explored. Faculty members who become Associates of the South Campus centre will work in partnership with the “Sustainability Teaching Fellows” proposed in the Sustainability Academic Strategy (SAS) to ensure that South Campus opportunities are clearly embedded in appropriate curricula.

3. Farm-Integrated Residential College: Develop a vision for residential undergraduate and graduate colleges offering immersive experiential learning.

Situated in close proximity to the Farm, residents would be selected for their commitment to sustainability and their likely contributions to the college community. Scholarship opportunities would bring learners of all backgrounds to contribute.

4. Innovation Grants and International Sustainability Laureates: Offer grants to assist new projects that exemplify priority goals of this plan and create opportunities for international “sustainability laureates” to visit and enhance on-site learning and research.

5. Practicum Courses: Develop the UBC Farm’s existing practicum program to offer certification for non-degree program students, and offer modular integration for students registered in degree programs. Link co-op opportunities to existing support network of professionals.