Chapter 4 The Specter of Enclosure in School Gardens

An Ecocritical Pedagogy for the Educational Commons

In: Ecocritical Perspectives in Teacher Education
Authors:
Graham B. Slater
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Robert G. Unzueta
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Clayton Pierce
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Abstract

This chapter describes an ecocritical approach to teaching in school gardens. At the heart of our project is the belief that school gardens are a site of rich pedagogical potential, but that much of the scholarly literature on the subject is either premised on problematic assumptions about ecology and culture, or ignores crucial place-based histories of violence and dispossession. Absent an ecocritical approach to studying in school gardens, these sites are likely to replicate the historical tendency of schools to reproduce devastating systems of domination, extraction, exploitation, and human supremacy that place planetary life in peril. A key tenet of critical approaches to education has always been the importance of integrating theoretical reflection into emancipatory action (praxis), and as such, we situate our theoretical discussion of ecocritical approaches to school garden pedagogy in a clearly articulated historical materialist framework that is attuned to the imbrication of colonization and land dispossession, labor exploitation and social domination, and anthropocentrism and human supremacy. Such an understanding is crucial to enacting ecological ethics and emancipatory politics in school gardens. Our argument is thus premised on the notion that not only can teachers and students understand the links between these historical theoretical frames and everyday life in school gardens, but also they must if school gardens are to serve in any way as meaningful educational spaces. Drawing on diverse intellectual and political traditions committed to the notion of “the commons,” we conclude our chapter by envisioning the emancipatory, democratic, and sustainable social, ecological, and educational possibilities that might be (un)earthed by bringing ecocritical pedagogy into school gardens.

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