At the rise of today, and after a long and wonderful day in our vegetable garden prepping and planting, I watched as my wife and co-conspirator did something that reminded me of how wondrous learning environments are designed.
Design can be many things to many people and the at times worry laden “field” of educational design takes into account the cultural, corporate and confused landscape of “education” with an engineers eye and an activists heart, often to good ends. Learning in many places (I will not list here) shows progress, smiling children and overall good results. However, the best results, and we all know this, come from something more organic than even the best design plan.
Back to the land (in this case our organically certified property that we lease to some of the most amazing organic farmers and try to farm ourselves), and my wife. I spent the day prepping beds, raking and honing some of the best soil in Maine….it will grow amazing vegetables if tended well. No chemicals, no water (seriously) and little interference tell of much understanding and planning year after year….good results. My wife though, always has a way of bypassing all of the planning and just planting the seeds.
On this day, she emptied out a compost bin on a mostly tilled piece of pasture near our garden beds. Its important to know that I have been worried over this piece of land as it was planted but untended last year (read re-pastured) and has had one disc and one till this year (still a frontier). No matter, out came the rich compost-ish material: some soil but also egg shells a few carrot bits and some other still showing things (not totally “cooked” at all). She then proceeded to gently mix in some soil from the area near the pile. It looked messy, disheveled and then…. then she planted seeds.
No this is not the first time she has done this and yes it is second nature to her, passed down from a line of powerful and practical women and their gardens–and it works every time but it always takes me by pleasant surprise. For out of this pile of mixed and mashed freedom will come our best and sweetest melon of the year, the pumpkin that makes us all gasp…..
I sat and watched, then after all was well finished and I remained in the field, I looked at the pile and thought of the best learning experiences I have had with communities of kids. Should they have grown to what they were, did I have a plan or design….( was the soil prepared enough)? I can only say that I trusted the seeds, and the environment found–mashed-up and perhaps even unsightly (you do remember the last time you heard the *sound* of learning or looked deeply at the kids as they interacted? That sweet and tad bit chaotic sound and sight….). These times, yield the most growth, the sweetest moments, and the lasting bonds.
A wondrous learning environment is often one that emerges, with our care as adults. Our care in letting go of our worry and will to control, our importance in knowing what “works”, or what history says will work “always”…. For just as those seeds will grow wild, they will grow because a gentle bravery bucked all of horticulture and believed in the ability of seeds and freedom at one moment in time.