Stories of the Earth, even of the Universe, are in the places we inhabit. When we take time to observe and participate in our natural heritage, epochal truths are revealed and can be perceived. Exploring the patterns and habits of plants, animals, geology, water and energy in all life around us expands our awareness of belonging to a greater whole.
“The more attuned we are to the beauties of the world, the more we come to life and take joy in it.” ~ Yi-Fu Tuan
The beauty of the world delights our senses. It can induce a childlike sense of wonder. Our awe and curiosity may lead us to question the function and purpose of each non-human we encounter. Do you remember the first time you realized that you, too, are an intricate, beautiful being living on this spinning globe?
Have you questioned your function? Your purpose?
What is your contribution as a living being on this planet?
For most of us, creating opportunities to explore nature means deliberately making space in our busy schedules. Now, more than ever, it is essential for our individual and planetary well-being to spend time experiencing the beauty of our world. The more we pause and listen to the land, the more our attachment grows. This attachment to Home, empowers us to stand and protect it.
The wind, water, trees, and soil, along with all the creatures of the Earth, are asking the human family to attune with the beauty of the world. They are inviting us to ask critical questions about their lives and about our own. What has happened here? What is happening now? What do we want for future generations?
When was the last time you heard the river’s voice and listened to the lessons being sung?
2015 was a fantastic year for LBEAD! Long-time projects in Central Indiana came to fruition while new ones began to bud promising to branch from domestic to international in 2016. Here’s a glance at the year’s activities from LBEAD Director, Amy Rhodes.
At first, with only a camera as the audience, this felt like a move away from the typical land-based, immersive programs typically designed by LBEAD. But as an educator with years of experience developing hands-on, experiential learning programs connecting people to the lessons of the land, I quickly embraced the Garden Tower as a gateway to rebuilding human relationships with the natural world. I am thrilled to share the message about this beautifully designed product through as many channels possible!
With the majority of the world’s population living in urban areas and predictions for continual growth, access to nature or even a bit of earth to grow a garden is becoming increasingly more difficult to find. The Garden Tower 2 is a vertical garden with a vermicomposting system that provides users the ability to grow 50 – 130 plants in just 4-square feet! This makes it ideal for urban dwellers and community gardeners to increase volume of production in less space – a beneficial strategy when challenged with food access and security issues.
The first step through the Garden Tower gate is digging your hands in the dirt to produce healthy, organic food. This is successfully being done throughout the United States and Canada in urban settings and locations where soil erosion and infertility are an issue.
In the process of growing in GT2, first time gardeners, school teachers and children, commercial growers, folks of all ages are led down a multi-disciplinary path to participate in acts of:
Empathy (Watering and feeding plants and worms)
Problem-solving (Companion planting and pest control)
Entrepreneurship (Worm casting or farm market business)
Most importantly, when utilizing this first-of-its-kind container garden and composting system, Garden Tower users understand (consciously or unconsciously) the deeper levels of Reciprocity.
Each time food waste is added back into the system a human participates in capturing and feeding the nutrient-cycle. With the potential to grow and recycle nutrient in Garden Towers just about anywhere on the planet, millions of people have access to engage with the fundamental cycles of life right outside their door on a balcony or patio. Imagine the impact!
LBEAD began its seventh year booking and leading interpretive guided tours of Traders Point Creamery (TPC) – 100% grassfed, USDA-certified organic dairy farm located in Zionsville, IN. Since 2009, LBEAD has provided guided tours for over 30,000 visitors of this nationally recognized, artisanal Creamery. School groups, parks and rec summer camps, senior citizen groups, chartered tour and travel groups, and national FFA convention attendees are examples of visitors interested in learning about sustainable agriculture and local food at Traders Point Creamery near #Indianapolis.
Tracing the award-winning dairy products pasture-to-table, in less than a mile walk, is an extraordinary experience. Tour participants learn about the “salad bar” TPC’s brown swiss cows like to munch on in a rotational pattern and visit the parlor to view daily milking at 4:00 p.m.
And, on occasion, visitors are stopped in their tracks for an impromptu lesson on the “Power of Poo”. Oh, how they wished I was talking about Winnie-the-Pooh on this hot day in July.
#2 best LBEAD pic of 2015
Summer brought the continuation of Kids Grow Green at South Circle Farm in Indianapolis. The fourth year of the LBEAD program was again a success. Designed for 2nd – 8th graders from the nearby Concord Neighborhood Center, KGG annually involves 30 to 40 inner-city kids in growing, tending, making and sharing healthy delicious food. The after-school program begins in May, followed by a summer program June – August, and returns to an after-school program September – October. Check out these kids growing green smoothie mustaches…
Assistant Director, Emily TeKolste, championed the Kids Grow Green program again this year while also managing tours and Summer Farm Camp at Traders Point Creamery. Farm Camp had a record number of 24 campers in one session this year! Emily, along with 3 camp counselors, kept the Growing Farm Hands and Eco-Ag Stewards busy doing farm chores, feeding pigs and chickens, working in the garden, and milking cows.
Emily announced this Summer that she will be leaving LBEAD in 2016 in pursuit of a different career. She has provided tremendous encouragement and steady support over the last three years as LBEAD has grown. Wishing you a bright future, Emily! You will be missed.
The closing cycle of the year was bittersweet as the long-time contract with Traders Point Creamery came to a close while exciting new projects simultaneously developed with Garden Tower Project and Oakwood Center.
Here’s my #1 favorite LBEAD photo of the year marking the last tour at Traders Point Creamery. (You know you’re on the path of right livelihood when children connect arms with you around 300+ years of living history…and thankfully give it a hug.)
September was exciting as I spearheaded GTP’s connection with the International Living Future Instituteand the pursuit of the Living Product Challenge. I attended the first Living Product Expo in Pittsburg, PA and had the honor to display two Garden Towers in front of the main stage where world-renowned sustainability influencers such as Jason McLennan, Arlene Bloom, Jeffery Hollender and John Warner spoke to innovative architects, designers, scientists, builders, manufacturers and educators on the cutting edge of the materials revolution.
GTP is now working to have the GT2 certified as a living product, that is, being net-positive (generating more resources than it takes to produce it). Read more about the Challenge here.
Fall also brought forth two new programs at Oakwood Center, Being At Home On Earth and The Baby Picture Project. I assisted in developing and launching these adult community education programs designed to facilitate new perspectives and ways of relating with the fellow inhabitants on our home, this planet. Oakwood Center is a wonderful gem in Central Indiana restoring this core connection, serving as a host facility for multiple arts and ecology retreats throughout the year.
So there you have it! 2015 was a full and exciting year. 2016 is already showing great things on the horizon…Beginning with a Garden Tower Project trip to Nicaragua in January and the release of DIY compost heat recovery videos on YouTube in late-Spring.
L-BEAD programs operate seasonally, April – October, in Central Indiana. During these months, we subcontract interpreters, educators, artisans, and college interns interested in local food systems, community organizing, and place-conscious education for sustainable development.
Providing mentorship and immersive learning opportunities for aspiring environmental educators is one of Land-Based Education & Agritour Design’s objectives. We have hosted four interns over the last three years from Butler University and Indiana State University. Receiving feedback from our interns about their experience is a vital component of our program’s success.
We had the joy of collaborating with Jordanna Bilyeu from ISU during the summer of 2014. Jordanna is majoring in elementary education with a minor in sustainability. L-BEAD directors, Amy Rhodes and Emily TeKolste, along with Dr. Tom Steiger, Professor of Sociology and Director of ISU’s Center for Student Research and Creativity, began working with Jordanna last May to help her design project-based research to support her learning goals. The primary focus of her project was evaluation of L-BEAD’s educational programs at Traders Point Creamery and South Circle Farm.
Jordanna’s enthusiasm for L-BEAD’s programs and her support in collecting data helped take our evaluation processes to a new level. The following interview with Jordanna provides insight into the intern experience working with L-BEAD to provide place-based, environmental education programs on small farms in the Midwest.
Jordanna presenting at ISU’s Student Symposium
Internship Interview with Jordanna Bilyeu (J) conducted by Amy Rhodes (A)
Thanks so much, Jordanna! We wish you success on all your endeavors!
These are a few of the responses I received from elementary and middle school students participating in L-BEAD’s Kids Grow Green program at South Circle Farm this past Summer. In that moment, during the first session in early June, we were frozen in time with our senses and curiosities peaked. Awareness of place had been incited. Instantaneously, the group realized the ground we were standing on, the constructs of the city, the air we were breathing, and the expansive and humbling feeling of floating on a small blue ball somewhere in the Milky Way galaxy. It was a lesson in place consciousness; of becoming more aware of the living places humans inhabit and create.
Children from the Concord Neighborhood Center returned to the farm once weekly for two-hour sessions led by L-BEAD educators over the following five weeks. The Kids helped plant, care for, harvest, and make food from their Salsa, Pizza, 3 Sisters, Rainbow and Root Gardens. Along with tending gardens, they listened to stories and cultural legends about food, participated in scavenger hunts and blindfolded trust walks, and created nature-inspired art.
Each week the students were challenged to look more deeply, think more critically, and explore the lessons offered by the particular place that is South Circle Farm. Questions infused throughout theKids Grow Green curriculum included, “Who lives here?” “How did this place develop to be as it is today?” “Why and for who is this place important?” and “How can we care for and share this place?” The primary goal of the program, now finishing its third year, is to provoke perceptions and guide learners through the process of inquiry to gain a better understanding of the biological, social, ideological, and political dimensions of place.
Wait a minute. Isn’t Kids Grow Green just a typical summer gardening program?
Why would inquiry into the dimensions of place be a central part of the program? Curricula designed by L-BEAD are inspired by the contributions of a diverse collection of epistemologists, researchers, and environmental educators. The most recent influence on L-BEAD’s curriculum developments have been the research and writings of David Greenwood (formerly Gruenewald), Professor of Environmental Education at Lakehead University in Canada. In his 2013 article, A Critical Theory of Place-Conscious Education, Greenwood stated, “Place-study is vital for understanding how human and other species adapt to ecological and cultural changes on a planet in flux.” Providing opportunities for children and adults to critically look at the way we develop skills of adaptation and resiliency in this world of diminishing resources is indeed vital! Learning to garden is a gateway to self-reliance. Learning to critically study all dimensions of a place is a gateway to contributing both locally as an informed community member and globally as an Earth citizen.
Fall is here and the Kids are preparing for the end of season Harvest Celebration at South Circle Farm. And while the harvest is being gathered, I am looking back with a few critical questions of my own. What did the children gain from our program this year? Are they beginning to learn adaptation and resiliency skills needed to survive in this ever-changing present and the unpredictable future? Are these skills something we can measure? Most importantly, how can we capture what is being learned without taking away from the sensuous, perceptual experience of actively engaging with the physical world?
These questions have been fueling my exploration into literature regarding environmental education (EE) program evaluation, as well as, participatory action research (PAR) as a means for community development. In my search, I uncovered a newly emerging research method that combines three essential components of L-BEAD programs: environment, children, and participation. In Children as Active Researchers: The Potential of Environmental Education Research Involving Children (2013), Hacking et al. presented examples of EE programs in England and Australia that supported children as active researchers. The authors of the article made a clear case for shifting focus from children as the objects or subjects of research in EE programs, to one that addresses the rights and expertise of children as collaborators and contributing members of society. These programs empowered young people by recognizing them as stakeholders of the environment and encouraged their role as astute observers, researchers, and change-makers. Hacking et. al also provide guidance in this article for those wishing to develop research programs involving children.
Following this lead, L-BEAD can move forward by focusing more specifically on introducing PAR methods to children as part of its continuing place-conscious and place-based education practices. Participants, like the Kids in the Kids Grow Green program, will have opportunities to design and implement research objectives relevant to where they live. By collecting, analyzing and presenting their findings, children as participatory researchers will become more engaged in their place of study. The records kept of their learned experience, as quantitative or qualitative data, can be presented at neighborhood gatherings or planning meetings. This framework will encourage learners to create “benchmarks” for accountability and success. The results, presented by the participatory researchers, will serve to empower and demonstrate the program’s effectiveness. As participants become empowered and more engaged in their community, they will become advocates and leaders for community change. The cyclical growth and return of learners-as-leaders, therefore, must be anticipated and embedded into the structure of the program.
Through this exploration to find mindful and respectful ways to evaluate the effectiveness of Land-Based Education & Agritour Design programs, I am reminded of a concept I picked up in my Montessori training…Within structure is freedom. The task of developing structures for learners to freely analyze their place of study is both simple and complex. As facilitators bridging learners to the lessons of the land, we first open ourselves to teachable moments by picking up keys learners drop which indicate subjects of interest. Second, we gather up the keys and use them to design the focus and framework for research. Third, we support learners’ inquiry by sharing knowledge, stories, actions, and traditions gifted from the contributions of previous explorers. And finally, we offer participants opportunities to create and record new formulas, meanings, stories, and traditions gained through their own place-based, experiential interactions. Through this process, facilitators and participants collectively build awareness of the relationships embedded in the places we inhabit and can then work to reinhabit these places with greater cultural and ecological sensitivity and responsibility.
Hacking, E., Cutter-Mackenzie, A. and Barratt, R. (2013). Children as Active Researchers: The Potential of Environmental Education Research Involving Children. International Handbook of Research on Environmental Education, pgs. 438-458. New York, NY: Routledge.
Greenwood, D. (2013). A Critical Theory of Place-Conscious Education. International Handbook of Research on Environmental Education, pgs. 93-100. New York, NY: Routledge.
The gap between human systems of production and ecological systems providing resources for production will continue to stretch beyond our grasp until mutually beneficial links of social-environmental relationships are reconnected. Experiential environmental education programs created by Land-Based Education & Agritour Design provide opportunities for community members of all ages to awaken their ecological consciousness and reestablish positive human-nature relationships. Spring will be here soon! Explore the following farm-based programs designed by L-BEAD at the websites below. Plan a tour for K-12 or university students or for your organization’s team building day. Return to our site soon, as we will be adding more programs in Central Indiana during 2014.
Traders Point Creamery, Zionsville, Indiana Farm Tours click here.
Farm Camps at Traders Point Creamery, Zionsville, Indiana click here
Ludwig Farmstead Creamery, Fithian, Illinois Farm Tours click here.
Interested in rebuilding the link? We are always on the lookout for volunteers, interns, and educators to help close the human-environment gap. Visit our contact page for links to connect with us.