The Learning Garden: Place-based Learning for
Holistic First Nations’ Community Health
Mirella L. Stroink,
Connie H. Nelso...
The Learning Garden 2
 
This work was funded by a contribution from the Canadian Council on Learning.
All documents produc...
The Learning Garden 3
 
Table of Contents 
Acknowledgements..................................................................
The Learning Garden 4
 
3. Food Behaviours, Food Values, Perceptions of Food Systems, and Correlations................56 
...
The Learning Garden 5
 
The Learning Garden: Place-based Learning for Holistic First Nations’ Community Health
Executive S...
The Learning Garden 6
 
there is a constant exchange and evolution of food related knowledge (Feenstra, 2002). For
Canada’...
The Learning Garden 7
 
community by a community-based coordinator. Conceptualized as a series of workshops,
participants ...
The Learning Garden 8
 
participated in at least one workshop, in Ginoogaming, 50 (including 5 from Constance Lake).
This ...
The Learning Garden 9
 
and price that drove people to the dominant food system for the majority of their food.
Nonetheles...
The Learning Garden 10
 
Further discussion and integration of these findings is offered along with suggested
implications...
The Learning Garden 11
 
The Learning Garden: Place-based Learning for Holistic First Nations’ Community Health
Literature...
The Learning Garden 12
 
family, as well as within the individual self. This state of connectedness then manifested itself...
The Learning Garden 13
 
learning program whose purpose was to increase physical, emotional, and social indicators of
holi...
The Learning Garden 14
 
The health consequences of paediatric, as well as adult obesity in American Indians, and
Aborigin...
The Learning Garden 15
 
communities. In the Western model of health, these issues are understood to stem from
individual ...
The Learning Garden 16
 
The Aboriginal worldview of connectedness is infused by a sense of spirituality.
Individuals, com...
The Learning Garden 17
 
In this worldview of health as connectedness, ill-health can be seen to stem from a sense
of disc...
The Learning Garden 18
 
social than traditional lifestyle. This new lifestyle was argued to reduce self-esteem and render...
The Learning Garden 19
 
lateral violence in the community (Duran & Duran, 1995; Waldram, Herring, & Kue Young,
1995). Sig...
The Learning Garden 20
 
for Aboriginal respondents (Mignone, 2003). This measure was included in the present research
to ...
The Learning Garden 21
 
are exacerbated for people living in remote communities. Specifically, the mainstream food
system...
The Learning Garden 22
 
primarily Aboriginal the issue is again exacerbated by the suppression of local knowledge that
oc...
The Learning Garden 23
 
increase in knowledge and community capacity for local and cultivated food should ultimately
help...
The Learning Garden 24
 
Nation worldview. In this model it is recognized that the purpose of learning is to develop the
s...
The Learning Garden 25
 
The First Nations Learning Model also recognizes the importance of integrating both
Western and I...
The Learning Garden 26
 
health. Based on the definition of health held by individuals in Ginoogaming (Ray, 2007) and on
l...
The Learning Garden 27
 
Learning Approach
As stated earlier, the definition or model of health that is held by community ...
The Learning Garden 28
 
approaches to Aboriginal learning focus on education for the whole individual (Corbiere 2000),
wi...
The Learning Garden 29
 
community and natural environment. Learning by doing in the context of family and community
exper...
The Learning Garden 30
 
The program consisted of a series of 10 full-day workshops that were held in alternating
weeks in...
The Learning Garden 31
 
acquisition. Ideas for how to adopt a place-based approach to learning that were discussed with
t...
The Learning Garden 32
 
The outline of topics covered in each workshop is shown in sequence in Appendix A. The
manner in ...
The Learning Garden 33
 
social capital or sense of community has also been described as one of the main benefits of
garde...
The Learning Garden 34
 
telling among the workshop participants themselves also allowed for knowledge sharing in
strategi...
The Learning Garden 35
 
The cultural fit of a health promotion program is critical to its success (e.g., Prior, 2009;
And...
The Learning Garden 36
 
research questions based on the gaps identified above in the literature review. Specifically, (2)...
The Learning Garden 37
 
Communities
The Learning Garden Program was implemented in partnership with two First Nation
comm...
The Learning Garden 38
 
were actively involved in the program: community-based coordinators ran the knowledge
exchange wo...
The Learning Garden 39
 
With the exception of this core group, most individuals in Ginoogaming and all of those in
Arolan...
The Learning Garden 40
 
when. This allowed us to explore the second research question regarding food system usage and
its...
The Learning Garden 41
 
subscales and alpha reliability4
of each was found to be adequate. These were: traditional food
k...
The Learning Garden 42
 
Subjective Well-Being. Participants then completed the Satisfaction with Life Scale
(Diener, Emmo...
The Learning Garden 43
 
Food Security. The next section of the survey assessed participants’ perceptions of and
behaviour...
The Learning Garden 44
 
the alpha reliability coefficient to 0.60. The alpha reliability coefficients for the gathering a...
The Learning Garden 45
 
the centrality of the identity, or the subjective importance of the group to the individual’s
ide...
The Learning Garden 46
 
Qualitative research that adopts a phenomenological approach (Groenewald, 2004) brings
forward th...
The Learning Garden 47
 
Observations. Field notes were collected by a student researcher who attended the
workshops in Gi...
The Learning Garden 48
 
Interviews. Five interviews were conducted involving 1 male and 1 female from Aroland,
1 male fro...
The Learning Garden 49
 
into key findings. This process was guided by the research questions of the study. Upon analysis
...
The Learning Garden 50
 
The goals of the program were to increase holistic health and knowledge in the areas of
gardening...
The Learning Garden 51
 
behind the Elders’ complex. In Aroland, a community-wide blueberry harvest resulted from
discussi...
The Learning Garden 52
 
projects. Youth from both communities were hired by the Band office to gain experience
working wi...
The Learning Garden 53
 
2. Process of Learning
The second purpose of this research was to observe the process of learning...
The Learning Garden 54
 
thinning of plants. For example, when holding discussions in the health centre, on four separate
...
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The Learning Garden: Place-based Learning

  1. 1. The Learning Garden: Place-based Learning for Holistic First Nations’ Community Health Mirella L. Stroink, Connie H. Nelson and Brian McLaren, Lakehead University March 2010
  2. 2. The Learning Garden 2   This work was funded by a contribution from the Canadian Council on Learning. All documents produced by the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) will be available in both French and English. However, documents produced by external organizations for CCL will be posted on the website only in the language of origin. When a full translation is not available, CCL will ensure that an executive summary is available in the other official language. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the authors. The Canadian Council on Learning bears no responsibility for its content. Acknowledgements The research team would like to express their deep appreciation for the partnership we have with Ginoogaming and Aroland First Nations. The contributions of these communities as a whole, their chiefs and councils, health directors, and our own project coordinators to the entire process of this research were essential to the completion of the project. We would also like to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of our Aboriginal research participants, whose insights furthered understanding of place-based learning, culture, and food security. We also express thanks to the Canadian Council on Learning for providing the financial support for this project.
  3. 3. The Learning Garden 3   Table of Contents  Acknowledgements.....................................................................................................................................2  Executive Summary....................................................................................................................................5  Literature Review......................................................................................................................................11  Physical Health in Aboriginal Canadian Communities.............................................................13  Health and Connectedness in Aboriginal People ......................................................................15  Community Resilience, Food and Health ..................................................................................20  First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model........................................................................23  The Intervention: A Learning Garden Program........................................................................25  Learning Approach....................................................................................................................27  The Present Study ......................................................................................................................35  Communities .............................................................................................................................37  Method.....................................................................................................................................................38  Participants................................................................................................................................38  Materials and Procedure: Quantitative Study...........................................................................40  Procedure: Qualitative Study ....................................................................................................45  Data Analysis.............................................................................................................................48  Results.......................................................................................................................................................49  1. Outcomes of the Learning Garden Program ........................................................................49  2. Process of Learning .........................................................................................................................53 
  4. 4. The Learning Garden 4   3. Food Behaviours, Food Values, Perceptions of Food Systems, and Correlations................56  4. Place, Culture, and Food: The Role of Learning ..................................................................64  Discussion.................................................................................................................................................74  Overview of Results....................................................................................................................74  Integration and Implications of Findings ..................................................................................80  Limitations and Future Directions.............................................................................................85  Conclusion .................................................................................................................................88  References.................................................................................................................................................90  Appendix A: Workshop Outline.............................................................................................................102  Appendix B: Cover Letter.......................................................................................................................107  Appendix C: Informed Consent..............................................................................................................109  Appendix E: Debriefing Letter ...............................................................................................................124   
  5. 5. The Learning Garden 5   The Learning Garden: Place-based Learning for Holistic First Nations’ Community Health Executive Summary Aboriginal peoples in Canada suffer disproportionately high rates of various health problems including diabetes and heart disease (Garriguet, 2008). In an Aboriginal worldview which understands individuals, communities, and land to be infused with an underlying spiritual unity (Hill, 2006), health can be understood to stem from a state of connectedness within individuals and between individuals, communities, and land (Ray, 2007). This holistic vision of health captures not only the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of individual health, but also a broader sense of community health. The resilience of a community is an important indicator of its overall health, and is reflected in its self-sufficiency, its adaptability, and its capacity to meet its own needs under conditions of external change (Walker, Hollinger, Carpenter & Kunzig, 2004). Food plays a unique and meaningful role in this conceptualization of health. Food affects individual nutrition but also plays a role in the social and cultural aspects of community health and can connect individuals to the land (Willows, 2005). The way that a community accesses food is also an important component of its resilience. The communities that participated in this research access the mainstream food system for the majority of their food needs, particularly convenience stores and small grocery stores in nearby towns (Ray, 2007). The resilience of this system is particularly poor in remote communities where the increased distances and tenuous transportation routes mean that not only is fresh produce more rare, more expensive, and of lower quality, it is also more likely that a disturbance (spike in fuel costs, extreme weather) will undermine the capacity of the community to meet its food needs (Lawn & Harvey, 2004). Typically, a community that is resilient in its food supply is one that produces food nearby to the people who consume that food; and in which
  6. 6. The Learning Garden 6   there is a constant exchange and evolution of food related knowledge (Feenstra, 2002). For Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, a locally rooted base of food knowledge has been dwindling as a result of residential school experiences, disruptions to intergenerational transfer, past policies and practices of forced assimilation, and environmental contamination from industry and resource extraction (Ohmagari & Berkes, 1997; Waisberg & Holzkamm, 1993). Therefore, an important part of increasing community resilience is to facilitate the exchange and development of food knowledge that is grounded in place, in the reality of the land and the life it encompasses. This report presents the development and findings of the Learning Garden program, which was developed and run in partnership with Ginoogaming and Aroland First Nations in Northwestern Ontario. With the overall aim of fostering this vision of holistic health, the Learning Garden program was developed with the purpose of increasing physical, emotional, and social indicators of health, while taking an initial step toward community resilience in the area of food by increasing local food knowledge. Specifically, the purpose of the program was to increase holistic health and to increase experience-based knowledge of both vegetable gardening and forest foods, nutrition and its link to health. For its perspective, the program drew upon the definition of health as a state of connectedness that was revealed in earlier research with Ginoogaming First Nation (Ray, 2007), and the First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model developed by the Canadian Council on Learning (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007). The approach to learning was holistic, experiential and place-based (Corbiere, 2000; Friesen & Friesen, 2002; Gruenewald, 2003). The program was prepared and run in each The purpose of the Learning  Garden program is to increase  physical, emotional, and social  indicators of health, while taking an  initial step toward community  resilience in the area of food by  increasing knowledge of vegetable  gardening, forest food, and nutrition. 
  7. 7. The Learning Garden 7   community by a community-based coordinator. Conceptualized as a series of workshops, participants explored their food system options, the healthfulness and sustainability of each, and the values reflected in them. Participants also shared knowledge on the foods that are available in the nearby lands and generated traditional food maps while gaining practical skills involving the tending and harvesting of both forest foods and vegetables from planted gardens. The program incorporated traditional ceremonies and the wisdom of elders. The products of the harvests were shared with elders and other community members. The purpose of the research was to (1) examine the outcomes of the program against its goals for holistic health and knowledge, and to explore three additional research questions. Specifically, (2) we observed through qualitative analysis the process of learning that unfolded in the context of the program with an eye to understanding whether the holistic, experiential, and place-based approach we used resonated with program participants. In addition, (3) we drew upon quantitative survey data to better understand participants’ current food behaviours, food values, and perceptions of the food system, in addition to how these perceptions and behaviours correlated with other variables of interest, including holistic health and cultural identity. Finally, (4) we explored through qualitative data the participants’ perceptions of place and sought a better understanding of the interactions among place, food, and culture. We adopted a mixed methods approach to this research, which was designed to include a pre-post quantitative survey of program participants, and qualitative analyses in the form of phenomenological observation, interviews with 5 individuals, and transcribed recordings of the workshop sessions. Quantitative measures included self-reported levels of physical health, emotional well-being, life satisfaction, and social capital, as well as knowledge, behaviour, values, and perceptions relating to food, and cultural identity. In Aroland a total of 43 individuals
  8. 8. The Learning Garden 8   participated in at least one workshop, in Ginoogaming, 50 (including 5 from Constance Lake). This included school children, youth, adults, and elders. Participation in the workshops was extremely intermittent, given high rates of travel, seasonal activities in the bush, and health problems. Only 8 individuals, all in Ginoogaming, participated regularly in the workshops. As a result, we were not able to run the quantitative study as a pre-post survey design as we had intended, which presented a significant limitation to the research. Instead, we collected survey data from each willing adult throughout the program, regardless of the number of workshops they attended and when. We were thus still able to explore the second research question regarding food system usage and its correlates with a sample of 18 individuals. While we were unable to test the outcomes of the program with quantitative data, qualitative analyses revealed that the program did provide participants with moments of transformative insight, and behavioural indicators of learning were revealed particularly in the area of cultivated gardening In observing the process of learning that unfolded in the Learning Garden program, we found that participants generally preferred the experiential aspects of the program, and that some Aboriginal learners preferred to immerse their learning in their day to day lives. For these individuals, the structured bi-monthly workshop format may not have been ideal. Likewise, we observed cultural differences in how the garden is understood. While the program was flexible enough to adapt to these different understandings and preferences, future applications of the program will incorporate this variability in its design. Our analyses of participants’ perceptions of their food systems revealed that the knowledge base for cultivated and forest food was limited and that it was largely convenience “Culture emerges  dynamically as people  self‐organize a food  system in the context of a  dynamic perception of  place.” 
  9. 9. The Learning Garden 9   and price that drove people to the dominant food system for the majority of their food. Nonetheless, correlational results also indicated that engaging in forest food activities such as hunting and fishing, and valuing local foods were associated with positive, healthy qualities such as self-reported health, life satisfaction, and social capital. Therefore, even though knowledge and use of the local food system was limited, there may be benefits to accessing this food system for well-being. Qualitative findings regarding participants’ perceptions of place were particularly intriguing. Participants’ perceptions of their traditional lands were marked by concerns of contamination and an awareness of change. The change they perceived in their lands was attributed to human activities in the Western culture, such as climate change and industry. Further observation revealed, however, that participants’ perceptions of place were much broader than we had assumed. Specifically, their notions of place included the physical structures of the global food system in their communities, such as nearby grocery and convenience stores, and could also be argued to include less tangible elements of the “global place”, such as media, popular fashion, and technology. This insight regarding participants’ broad understandings of place and place-based learning resulted in some theoretical developments regarding the interactions among learning, food, place, and culture. These insights suggest that culture emerges dynamically as people self-organize a food system in the context of a dynamic perception of place. The blended and changing view of place that we observed in our participants shapes their quest for food and the process of adaptation along with the resulting cultural values and worldviews. In future work, we will continue to explore how the existence and evolution of two food systems within one broad perceived place shapes the learning of cultural information, and how this process may impact well-being on both individual and community levels.
  10. 10. The Learning Garden 10   Further discussion and integration of these findings is offered along with suggested implications for policy in the areas of learning and education, food systems, and for the development of future health programs. Further research in a number of areas is also suggested and a plan for the continued development of the Learning Garden program is presented.
  11. 11. The Learning Garden 11   The Learning Garden: Place-based Learning for Holistic First Nations’ Community Health Literature Review The concept of health is surprisingly difficult to define. Individuals and cultures show considerable variability in how they understand health and what they consider to be its core and contributing components. In a relatively recent step away from the classic medical or purely biophysical model of health, Western culture and the medical establishment expanded the notion of health to include a broader state of well-being than the absence of physical disease. This broader, bio-psycho-social model of health is articulated in the definition of health presented by the World Health Organization in 1948, “a complete state of physical, mental and social well- being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In this more holistic view of health, psychological and social well-being are recognized as important components in a state of overall wellness that defines health (Raphael, 2004). Conceptualizations of health show still further variability, however, particularly when viewed across cultures. For example, Australian Aboriginal peoples have been reported to define health in this way, “health does not just mean the physical well-being of the individual but refers to the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural well-being of the whole community” (Raphael, 2004). This view of health as a collective state transcends specific individuals, and also includes not only the social and psychological aspects of health as captured in the WHO definition, but also spiritual and cultural components. The Australian Aboriginal definition of health also extends across time through a cyclical worldview of life-death-life. Likewise, in a qualitative study on how Aboriginal Canadians in the same Ojibway communities that participated in the present study defined health, it was found that health reflected a state of connectedness, connectedness with spirit, culture, community, land, and
  12. 12. The Learning Garden 12   family, as well as within the individual self. This state of connectedness then manifested itself in a range of individual and community health outcomes, including physical and emotional health in individuals, as well as community social capital, positive environmental conditions, and food security (Ray, 2007). In this Aboriginal view of health, participation in traditional ceremonies such as talking and drumming circles, smudging, cedar sweat lodge ceremonies, craft making, singing, food gatherings, traditional teachings, games, and powwows are all believed to have spiritual connections that bring well-being and connectedness to the individuals in their community (Hunter, Logan, Goulet, & Barton, 2006). When developing health promotion and health learning programs, the particular definition of health that is held by participating community members is a critical piece of information. Who gets to decide what optimal state of health should be promoted in a health promotion program, on the basis of whose model of health? These are critical questions, and the present research was conducted in the context of a learning program which sought to draw upon the understanding of health that was revealed in qualitative research with this community (Ray, 2007) and upon a model of learning developed with First Nations professionals in Canada (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007). In so doing, the overall aim of the program was to promote a holistic vision of health grounded in a profound state of connectedness that recognizes the interdependence of individual and community health. This vision of holistic health is thus inclusive of the concept of community resilience. Resilient communities are self-sufficient and locally interconnected enough to meet the needs of their own members despite changes and disruptions that occur externally; they are adaptable and sustainable in that they do not undermine their own capacity to maintain function (Capra, 2002; Walker, Hollinger, Carpenter & Kunzig, 2004). With the overall aim of fostering this vision of holistic health, we developed a
  13. 13. The Learning Garden 13   learning program whose purpose was to increase physical, emotional, and social indicators of holistic health, and to take one first step toward community resilience in the area of food by increasing local food knowledge. Physical Health in Aboriginal Canadian Communities Aboriginal Canadian peoples carry a disproportionate amount of the disease burden, with particular emphasis on problems relating to obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease. For example, Garriguet (2008) found that Aboriginal peoples residing in Ontario or Western provinces in 2004, aged 19 to 50 years, were two and a half times more likely than non Aboriginals to be overweight or obese. Garriguet (2008) also found this to be especially true for Aboriginal women aged 19 to 30. He found that Aboriginal women tended to have higher daily caloric intake in which they consumed an average of 359 more calories per day than non- Aboriginal women. It was also found that Aboriginal women between the ages of 19 and 30 received 36% of their calories between meals as opposed to only 28% for non-Aboriginal women. There are many factors that underlie obesity, and some of these are experienced disproportionately by Aboriginal peoples. For instance, Aboriginal peoples face disparities in food security, education, employment, income, and housing, as well as lower levels of physical activity (Aboriginal Health Forum, 2008; Gracey & King, 2009; Powers, 2008). These factors may contribute to differences in obesity rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples (Garriguet, 2008). According to Story, Stevens, Himes, Stone, Rock, Ethelbah and Davis (2003), differences in rates of obesity could be due to genetics and/or environmental factors such as food, nutrition, stress, lack of physical exercise, and anxiety.
  14. 14. The Learning Garden 14   The health consequences of paediatric, as well as adult obesity in American Indians, and Aboriginal Canadians, include Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Story et al., 2003). In many Aboriginal communities, diabetes is one of the major chronic disease problems. Diabetes is an endocrine disorder associated with increased levels of blood glucose due to inadequate insulin action (Sherwood, 2007). Diabetes can also lead to chronic complications, such as accelerated development of cardiovascular disease, end-stage renal disease, loss of visual acuity, and even limb amputations if proper care is not maintained (Story et al., 2003; Struthers, Schanche Hodge, Geishirt-Cantrell, & De Cora, 2003). In a U.S. study conducted by Devlin, Roberts, Okaya, and Xiong (2006), perceptions of diabetes and health were examined among Latino/Hispanic, Hmong, African American, and American Indian participants. All four groups felt that both individual and community health had been lost through exposure to American lifestyle. Specifically, the lack of physical activity and poor dietary habits they associated with American lifestyle were thought to cause or influence diabetes. The American Indian group, in particular, felt that their traditions and use of traditional food had been taken from them. Although the prevalence of diabetes is high, it is a relatively new issue in American Indian communities (Story et al., 2003; Struthers et al., 2003). Devlin et al., (2006) conducted a study in which participants were asked their opinions as to why diabetes has taken such a toll on the American Indian communities in such a short time. It was found that participants felt it was the process of acculturation, or the impact of mainstream American culture on traditional Indian culture and lifestyle. It is imperative to understand these high rates of obesity and diabetes in the context of the holistic, interconnected, and community-based model of health that is held in many Aboriginal
  15. 15. The Learning Garden 15   communities. In the Western model of health, these issues are understood to stem from individual behaviours and choices in isolation. However, in the Aboriginal model of community health, they may reflect cultural, spiritual, and environmental factors, and be an issue not only for individual health but for community health as a whole. Specifically, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as other health challenges, may be a function of connectedness to community, culture, and land. Health and Connectedness in Aboriginal People As indicated above, health is understood holistically in the Aboriginal worldview to include not only the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of individual health, but also a state of connectedness both within the individual and between the individual and his or her community, culture, and surrounding lands (Ray, 2007). For example, Adelson (2000) studied the meaning of health among the Cree in Northern Quebec and observed that “being alive well” (Miyupimaatisiiun) is determined on a daily basis by the nature and quality of the person’s interactions with others, as well as his or her ability to participate in activities that are essential to being Cree, including the consumption of traditional foods and activities that connect the individual to the land. She further argues that “being Cree” connects the individual to the community through a common oral history in the recollections of families and individuals. Therefore, health in this Cree worldview includes the individual’s connectedness with both community and culture, through common identity, oral history, and traditional activities. Likewise, in his qualitative exploration of suicide in the north, Kral (2003) observed that connection to a larger sense of family as captured in the term, “all my relations” is fundamental to well-being.
  16. 16. The Learning Garden 16   The Aboriginal worldview of connectedness is infused by a sense of spirituality. Individuals, communities, and land are held together by a common, dynamic, spiritual bond. In other words, the connectedness occurs as a result of spiritual dynamics linking family, community, nature, land, ancestors, and creator. Traditional ceremonies, spiritually significant figures and medicines tap into this level of spirit and can thus play a role in the dynamics of nature and human communities (e.g., Mattern, 1999). This connection through the spiritual realm also means that humans, non-human animals, and the land share a common essence and are granted respect and a sense of equality (Simpson & Driben, 2000; Hill, 2006; McPherson & Rabb, 1993). This worldview of connectedness may serve to protect the health of the individual and community. For example, McPherson and Rabb (1993) indicate that a sense of connectedness with the land in which non-human beings are seen as being part of the community ensures that the wellness of the individual is maintained. For example, “Plants and animal species are, as it were, other tribes or nations. Human economic intercourse with other species is not represented as the exploitations of impersonal material, natural resources, but as reciprocal gift giving in which both parties exchange benefits” (McPherson & Rabb, 1993, p. 89). For example, the hunter is provided with the skin and flesh of the caribou and in exchange the hunter provides tobacco and artefacts to the spirit of the caribou. The hunter is able to maintain wellness by eating the meat of the caribou and the caribou maintains wellness because the offering allows it to be reborn. Likewise, Wilson (2004) explored the relationship between cultural identity and wellness among Aboriginal women in Manitoba, and observed that many of the women spoke of their personal responsibilities to family and community as part of their own sense of wellness, recognizing that their health and the health of their communities were inseparable.
  17. 17. The Learning Garden 17   In this worldview of health as connectedness, ill-health can be seen to stem from a sense of disconnection from the unity of individuals, communities, and land. Barrios and Egan (2000) suggest that separation from a sense of connectedness within kin networks and community, whether voluntary or resulting from government policies, may lead to various emotional and physical health problems. Separation from this sense of connectedness can occur as a result of a number of factors, including historical trauma, disruptions to the land, and disruptions to community functioning. There is considerable literature on the effects of colonization and historical trauma on generations of Aboriginal people. This literature ultimately suggests that through the loss of land, language, and cultural and spiritual practices, individuals lost the structures which helped to maintain a sense of connectedness and that these experiences further led them to internalize the suffering and marginalization of their people (e.g., Duran & Duran, 1995; Hill, 2006). This trauma is then passed along over successive generations through the symptoms and behaviour patterns of parents (addictions, violence, abuse), which disrupt the adjustment of children (Wesley-Esquimaux & Smolewski, 2004). There is also literature suggesting that the destruction of the land causes a disconnection between individual and land. Wilson (2003) argued that the land provides a sense of connection to the creator, and that engaging in traditional activities on the land, like hunting, fishing, or gathering medicines, brings emotional as well as social and physical benefits. Destruction of the land through the activities of industry and hydro-electric projects has undermined the ability of Aboriginal people to experience this connection with the land. For example, Wheatley (1997) reported the experiences of the people of Grassy Narrow, whose lands were contaminated by mercury. This resulted in a loss of subsistence and a new lifestyle that was less active and less
  18. 18. The Learning Garden 18   social than traditional lifestyle. This new lifestyle was argued to reduce self-esteem and render people unable to provide for community and family members, which in turn undermined traditional values of respect, sharing, and caring. The ensuing hopelessness was argued to result in higher rates of chronic disease, substance abuse, suicide, and loss of fitness. Gabriel Echum, A past Chief of Ginoogaming First Nation, one of the partner communities in this project, describes the devastation brought to their lands and traditional activities following water diversion and industrial activities in their area in a panel hearing available as a transcript online. “Ginoogaming people have suffered immensely from hydro development. Our river systems were diverted, our Elders recall, the rivers became confused. Along with river diversion, other industries used the water systems for transporting logs. We began to witness the deterioration of our waters. The aquatic life began to deform and disintegrate. Today we cannot eat the fish from this lake, our children cannot walk to the beach and enjoy an afternoon swim. This lake will take decades upon decades before it is restored. It is contaminated by industry and no industry is willing to take responsibility for the destruction of the waters. The people of Ginoogaming will never forget the tragedy experienced when we saw our lands flooded, the four legged relations dislocated and our scaled ones become deformed. Our fathers and grandfathers vividly recall the nature, the rivers in turmoil when its very directions which were designed by our creator were redirected by man” (Echum, 2008)1 . Disconnection from the family and community may also undermine health in Aboriginal communities. Traditional activities, which are often social in nature, reinforce a sense of connection (Abadian, 2006; Turton, 1997). Past policies of assimilation which discouraged or banned traditional activities resulted in the loss of opportunities for meaningful social connection and the intergenerational transmission of cultural values. It has been suggested that a loss of these activities may result in alienation and substance abuse (Cheah & Nelson, 2004), as well as                                                              1  Accessed from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website:  http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/010/0001/0001/0012/0002/0038/s11_e.htm 
  19. 19. The Learning Garden 19   lateral violence in the community (Duran & Duran, 1995; Waldram, Herring, & Kue Young, 1995). Significant correlations have been found between participation in traditional activities and lower levels of acculturative stress and substance abuse in Aboriginal communities (Duran & Duran, 1995). Traditional Aboriginal youth who are connected with their family and community have been found to consume less alcohol than youth who are not as traditional and connected (Cheah & Nelson, 2004). The causal direction of these findings is unknown, and it is likely that a downward spiral is triggered whereby a sense of disconnection triggers addictions and other self- alienating behaviours, which in turn lead to further isolation from the community. This Aboriginal research is supported by a growing body of literature on the social determinants of health, which indicate that factors such as social structure, social position, and social environment have implications for physical and mental health (e.g., Raphael, 2004, Graham, 2004). Within this literature, social capital has received increasing attention as a factor affecting health. The term social capital broadly refers to the collection of features of social groups which act as resources for individuals and which facilitate collective action (e.g., networks, trust, reciprocity) (Kawachi, Kennedy, Lochner, & Prothrow-Stith, 1997). Many of these features, particularly social cohesion, trust, social control, and perceived neighbourhood safety have been found to be associated with higher levels of self-rated health (Drukker, Buka, Kaplan, McKenzie, & Van Os, 2005; Ziersch, Baum, MacDougall, & Putland, 2005). In an attempt to organize this expansive concept, social capital has been conceptualized to include bonding (trusting, co-operative relationships among members of a group), bridging (relations of respect and mutuality between members of different groups), and linking (norms of respect and trust between people interacting across explicit lines of power or authority) components (Szreter & Woolcock, 2004). A scale assessing these components of Social Capital has been developed
  20. 20. The Learning Garden 20   for Aboriginal respondents (Mignone, 2003). This measure was included in the present research to assess the effects of the learning program on the social aspect of holistic health. With holistic health understood as a state of connectedness that includes connection to land, community, and culture, food plays a unique and meaningful role in holistic health. Food serves a social function in that families and communities gather over the preparation and consumption of regular meals and special feasts (Sered, 1988; Vennum, 1988). Food serves a cultural function as a symbolic expression of a particular collective identity. For the Inuit and other Aboriginal people, consumption of traditional foods is a way to practice a connection with the land (Statistics Canada, 2001; Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996; Willows, 2005). Given its importance in holistic health, it is important to consider the overall food system within which Aboriginal health unfolds, and to question the resilience of a community in relation to its capacity to provide for the food needs of its population. Community Resilience, Food and Health When health is understood to include a sense of connectedness among healthy individuals within a healthy community, it becomes necessary to consider essential aspects of community functioning, such at its food system. In other words, health thrives within a resilient community that is able to offer a range of social and tangible supports to its citizens even under changing circumstances and external shocks. As such, it is important to examine the quality, resilience and sustainability of essential systems within the community such as the food system. Like most people today, those in the communities that participated in this research access the mainstream food system, particularly convenience stores and grocery stores in nearby towns for their food (Ray, 2007). The sustainability and resilience of this global food system in general has been questioned elsewhere (e.g., Heinberg & Bomford, 2009; FAOUN, 2008), but the issues
  21. 21. The Learning Garden 21   are exacerbated for people living in remote communities. Specifically, the mainstream food system is heavily dependent upon a processing and distribution matrix that is only able to exist in the presence of affordable fuel and well developed transportation routes (Petrini, 2007). In remote communities, food and other goods must travel further along less developed highways, and in some cases be flown in, resulting in greatly increased cost and reduced quality of fresh produce. Therefore, in these communities, fresh produce tends to be of poorer quality, and the food options that are available and accessible tend to be of lower nutritional value overall (INAC, 2007; Lawn & Harvey, 2004). Furthermore, this international food system is particularly vulnerable at its edges, in its capacity to support people in remote communities under conditions of shock or change. A spike in the cost of fuel, a highway wash-out, or weather that prohibits flying could mean that store shelves dwindle, decreasing community food security, and revealing the limited resilience of communities that depend exclusively on this food system to support their populations. Resilient communities are those which have the resources, infrastructure, and capacity to meet their own essential needs in the event of an external crisis (Hopkins, 2008). As such, these communities are able to maintain basic functioning while adapting quickly to new situations. The degree to which a community can provide its own essential food needs is an important indicator of its resilience. Typically, a community that is resilient in its food supply is one that produces food nearby to the people who consume that food; and in which there is a constant exchange and evolution of food related knowledge, including knowledge of all aspects of the food system, from production through preparation, consumption and waste management (Feenstra, 2002). Again, one can argue from this definition that the entire mainstream food system is lacking in resilience (Heinberg & Bomford, 2009). However, in remote Canadian communities that are
  22. 22. The Learning Garden 22   primarily Aboriginal the issue is again exacerbated by the suppression of local knowledge that occurred over the past few hundred years. Specifically, for Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, a locally rooted base of food knowledge has been dwindling as a result of residential school experiences, disruptions to intergenerational transfer, past policies and practices of forced assimilation, and environmental contamination from industry and resource extraction (Ohmagari & Berkes, 1997; Waisberg & Holzkamm, 1993). Therefore, an important part of increasing community resilience is to facilitate the exchange and development of food knowledge that is grounded in place, in the reality of the land and the life it encompasses. Based on the preceding review of the literature, Aboriginal Canadians adopt a holistic understanding of health in which the health of individuals, community and land are seen to be fundamentally linked. Our purpose was to develop a health promotion program, the Learning Garden, that would foster this holistic vision of health by increasing the physical and emotional well-being of individuals, as well as their perceptions of the social capital in their community. Food is an important component in several aspects of holistic health, from nutrition to cultural and social connections. It is also fundamental to community resilience, and so our health promotion program unfolded in the context of an experiential learning program in cultivated gardening and forest foods. Thus the second purpose of the program was to increase knowledge of both cultivated and forest gardens2 , and the connection between nutrition and health. An                                                              2  “Forest gardens” refers to the food and medicine available naturally in the forests and waterways, as  well as to foods that may be planted, cultivated, or otherwise manipulated by humans prior to harvest in the forest  environment (e.g., transplanting wild rice to different lakes). This is often referred to as “country food.” We chose  the term forest garden to explicitly recognize that the line between cultivated and forest food may not be as rigid  as often assumed. 
  23. 23. The Learning Garden 23   increase in knowledge and community capacity for local and cultivated food should ultimately help foster community resilience and the other components of holistic health. The interconnected and holistic Aboriginal worldview has implications not only for conceptualizations of health but also for approaches to learning. The Learning Garden program drew on the First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007) for its design. This model will be described next followed by a description of the pedagogical approach and content of the Learning Garden program. First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model In the design of the Learning Garden program we sought an approach that would resonate most effectively with the Aboriginal learners. The First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007) was developed by a team of First Nations educators and advisors and describes an approach to learning that is consistent with the First Aroland potato harvest
  24. 24. The Learning Garden 24   Nation worldview. In this model it is recognized that the purpose of learning is to develop the skills and wisdom that will ensure the sustainability of life. Furthermore, it is understood that individual learning occurs in a cyclical manner throughout the lifespan. Therefore, rather than being a linear progression that is compartmentalized in specific ages or locations (e.g., school), learning is understood to be a developmental process that seeks to balance the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional dimensions of the person’s being and ultimately produce both individual and collective well-being. The model also describes the First Nation worldview in which the learner is embedded as “a world of continual reformation, where interactive cycles, rather than disconnected events, occur. In this world, nothing is simply a cause or an effect, but is instead the expression of the interconnectedness of life” (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007). This holistic and life-long view of learning that is directed toward well-being and sustainability is consistent with the purpose and perspective of the Learning Garden program. For example, the Learning Garden program uses the metaphor of the garden to conceptualize health learning. In the context of this program, the garden is not understood to be a plot of land that is separated and demarcated from the surrounding lands, but is rather understood to be the sustainable tending of any environment, forest, backyard, or community field, to produce indigenous healthy foods. As such, learning in the Learning Garden is viewed through the lens of the cyclical, interconnected, life-and health-sustaining garden, and is therefore profoundly place- based, experiential, and holistic.
  25. 25. The Learning Garden 25   The First Nations Learning Model also recognizes the importance of integrating both Western and Indigenous knowledge in the learning process. The sources and domains of knowledge that individual learning draws upon in this model includes the natural world, ancestors, traditions and ceremonies, as well as the wider nation, other nations, and multiple languages. Western and Indigenous knowledge and ways of learning are viewed as complementary, and their integration forms the core of the individual learner as they seek balance among the emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of their being. The Intervention: A Learning Garden Program The present research was conducted in the context of a Learning Garden program, which was run with two Ojibway First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario, Ginoogaming First Nation, and Aroland First Nation. Individuals from a third community, Constance Lake, also participated by commuting to Ginoogaming to attend workshops. The purpose of the program was to increase holistic health in program participants and to increase experience-based knowledge of both vegetable gardening and forest foods, as well as nutrition and its link to Blueberry harvest, Aroland
  26. 26. The Learning Garden 26   health. Based on the definition of health held by individuals in Ginoogaming (Ray, 2007) and on literature in psychology (e.g., Şimşek, 2009; Xu & Roberts, 2010; ) and Aboriginal health (e.g., Barnett & Barnett, 2009), we operationalized holistic health to include self-rated physical health, emotional well-being, satisfaction with life, and social capital. The program incorporated the principles of the First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model and the insights of the community partners and their experiences and reflections on a community garden pilot project in 2007. A detailed description of the intervention will be provided following a summary of the pedagogical approach that was adopted in the design and delivery of the program. Building and setting out the  Ginoogaming garden boxes 
  27. 27. The Learning Garden 27   Learning Approach As stated earlier, the definition or model of health that is held by community members is a critical factor when developing health promotion programs intended to benefit that community. Likewise, a health promotion program that emphasizes learning should also work within the model of learning that is held by its participants. In light of this concern, the Learning Garden program drew on the First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model developed by the Canadian Council on Learning (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007) and the insights of the community partners the previous summer (Ray, 2007) in establishing its approach to learning. As such, the pedagogical approach taken in the design and implementation of this program was holistic, experiential, and place-based. Recent research in education has sought to define holistic education (Forbes, 2003) and its implications for learning and well-being (e.g., Cornelius-White, 2007). The common defining feature is a basic assumption that the purpose of education is to facilitate the discovery of identity, meaning, and purpose through connections to the community and the natural world (Forbes, 2003). Therefore, while a given program might be on literacy or health, the holistic approach recognizes that in addressing any of these issues, the whole person and his or her dynamic inter-relationships with family, community, and nature must be considered (e.g., Jones, 2003). For example, a management education program in a business school for economically disadvantaged students in South Africa provided a holistic approach by going beyond the provision of career-oriented skills and knowledge to include the development of psychological strengths and community engagement (Heaton, 2008). A holistic approach to learning is appropriate in the context of an Aboriginal learning program because the First Nations worldview is likewise holistic and interconnected. Holistic
  28. 28. The Learning Garden 28   approaches to Aboriginal learning focus on education for the whole individual (Corbiere 2000), with frequent reference to the four dimensions of the medicine wheel: emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental3 . These approaches to learning also foster connections with family, community, nature, and society (Friesen & Friesen, 2002). Holistic approaches to learning in Aboriginal communities can help to restore balance and promote individual and community health (Gould, 2006). The Canadian Council on Learning recognized holistic learning to be a key component of Aboriginal approaches to knowledge and learning. In the Aboriginal worldview which sees all things as interconnected in balance, knowledge is not fragmented or categorized but rather considered in the context of their underlying unity (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007). The approach to learning in this program was also experiential. Experiential learning is the process of creating knowledge through the grasping and transformation of experience (Kolb, 1984; Kolb, Boyatzis & Mainemelis, 2000). Experiential learning occurs in a cyclical manner with concrete experiences forming the basis for observation and reflection, and reflection leading to the development of abstract concepts that can be tested with more experience. Experiential learning is often conducted in the context of adventure-based or outdoor learning programs with the key feature being direct, hands-on encounters with the material to be learned (Moote & Wodarski, 1997). According to the First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model, Aboriginal knowledge is based on observation and direct experience in the living classroom of the                                                              3  The precise meaning of the medicine wheel varies across different First Nations but is generally  considered a symbol of wholeness that represents the sacredness, equality and interconnectedness of all living  things or all races. It represents the four directions and links these with the four aspects – mental, physical,  emotional, and spiritual. Health and well‐being are understood to derive from wholeness and balance across these  four aspects (Dapice, 2006).  
  29. 29. The Learning Garden 29   community and natural environment. Learning by doing in the context of family and community experience is seen as being an essential component of learning for Aboriginal people (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007). Another important feature of the present approach is that learning is viewed as being place-based. Recent thinking in the field of education emphasizes the importance of place in learning and development across the lifespan. Learning in place (re)connects the individual with all levels of the human and biological ecology, grounding the person in the local bioregion, and in the history and culture of the community (e.g., Gruenewald, 2003; Knapp, 2005; Rahm, 2002; Smith, 2002). As such, it is particularly relevant to Aboriginal learning, as place is fundamental to the individual’s experience of the unity of creation, and particular places can hold deep spiritual significance. The meaning of place in Aboriginal learning was reviewed in the report on Learning from Place by the Canadian Council on Learning (2007). It can also be seen in recent research on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) (see also Barnhardt, 2006; 2008). TEK is the cumulative body of knowledge, beliefs, and practices held by a community about the interrelationships of all living things and the environment (Berkes, 1999). Research on TEK with Aboriginal peoples suggests that cultural knowledge, beliefs, and values are learned in dynamic interaction with the local ecosystem, so that culture and ecosystem are understood to be a social- ecological system, with individual learning taking place within this nexus (Davidson-Hunt & Berkes, 2003). In sum, the approach to learning that informed the design and implementation of the Learning Garden program was holistic, experiential and place-based, as these three components of learning have been identified as important in Aboriginal models of learning. Program Description.
  30. 30. The Learning Garden 30   The program consisted of a series of 10 full-day workshops that were held in alternating weeks in each community from May though September, 2008. Each workshop was facilitated by a community-based project coordinator who was directed and supported by the research team to follow the workshop outline (Appendix A) by covering the topics associated with each while pursuing the goals of the program as a whole in a manner adapted to the particular backgrounds and perspectives of the workshop participants. In this way we sought to ensure that the key aspects of the intervention were conducted in each community while giving the coordinator the flexibility to co-create the learning experience with the workshop participants. This responsive, bottom-up approach proved essential to the success of the intervention as the cultural uniqueness of the communities involved made it difficult to create a single format that would have been appealing to all workshop participants. The coordinators were first instructed in the holistic, experiential, and place-based approach to learning that was to guide the program. The First Nations Learning Model (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007) and its tree imagery were used to help make this approach clear to the coordinators. The Ginoogaming coordinator also chose to discuss this model with the learners in one workshop. Ideas for how to adopt a holistic approach to learning that were discussed with the coordinators included incorporating traditional ceremonies and imagery such as the medicine wheel into the workshop design, and discussing with participants the interconnections among physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the individual and community. The coordinators keenly understood the need for an experiential approach to the workshops and ideas that were discussed included ways that the coordinators could guide and share in the learning process, reflecting on the success of different techniques, while working as a group outside on garden planting, maintenance, and harvest or while engaged in forest food
  31. 31. The Learning Garden 31   acquisition. Ideas for how to adopt a place-based approach to learning that were discussed with the coordinators included seeking out the knowledge of local elders and garden enthusiasts to inform the group, and building local forest and cultivated garden knowledge that was based on the unique social-ecological system of the immediate surroundings. Some elements that the coordinators were instructed to incorporate in different combinations in the workshops included an outdoor, experiential component, a discussion and reflection component, activities or discussion on the cultivated garden, activities or discussion on the forest garden, development of a local food map and the development of each workshop participant’s food journal. The local food maps were developed over the course of the first half of the workshops with some minor additions occurring later. The food mapping exercise involves the use of a large map of the community’s traditional land use area. Through open sharing and dialogue, participants locate areas of the traditional lands that are used for the acquisition of foods including large (moose) and small (grouse) game, fish, wild rice, and blueberries. These areas are then marked on the map providing the community with a visual resource of important zones in the local food system (Raymond, Bryan, MacDonald, Cast, Strathearn, Grandgirard & Kalivas, 2009). The food journal exercise (based on the diet diary used in nutrition research; e.g., de Castro, 2009) involves having each participant keep track of the foods they have eaten each day (or most days). This exercise brings awareness to patterns of food consumption and offers a starting point for group discussion on trends in the group and implications for nutrition and well- being. Traditional ceremonies were also recommended for the coordinator or designate to implement at each workshop. The workshop group was also to prepare healthy food to eat for lunch and snacks as a group, and a prize draw of healthy groceries was to serve as an incentive for attending each workshop.
  32. 32. The Learning Garden 32   The outline of topics covered in each workshop is shown in sequence in Appendix A. The manner in which these topics address the goals of the program will be discussed next. There were two broad goals of the program: (1) to increase holistic health and (2) to increase knowledge in the areas of vegetable gardening, forest food, and nutrition and health. Holistic health was conceptualized to include physical and emotional health, satisfaction with life, and social capital. We sought to increase physical health by increasing the nutritional value of workshop participants’ diets through access to a greater amount and variety of fresh vegetables and forest foods including blueberries and local fish. Community gardening projects have been found to enhance nutrition and physical health in a range of urban and rural settings (e.g., Wakefield, Yeudall, Taron, Reynolds, & Skinner, 2007). Likewise, participating in the planting and maintenance of a cultivated garden is known to increase levels of physical activity (Armstrong, 2000), and while there is no research in precisely this area, we assumed that increasing participants’ activity levels in the acquisition of forest food would likewise increase levels of physical activity and health. Therefore, many of the program activities were aimed at both enhanced diet and increased physical activity. Every workshop meeting involved some amount of physical activity, varying in intensity from the building and moving of garden boxes to weeding and thinning of the vegetable garden, as well as excursions on foot to areas for fishing and blueberry gathering. Every workshop meeting included the preparation of healthy food and snacks and a prize draw of healthy groceries. The final 4 workshops also included harvesting, preparation, and consumption of vegetables from the garden. Emotional health and satisfaction with life have both been found to be increased by community garden experiences (Armstrong, 2000; Wakefield, et al., 2007) as well as by time spent in nature (e.g., Mayer, Frantz, Bruehlman-Senecal, & Dolliver, 2009). An increase in
  33. 33. The Learning Garden 33   social capital or sense of community has also been described as one of the main benefits of garden experiences, as individuals exchange experiences and ideas relating to the garden and engage in conversation over shared tasks such as weeding or watering (Patel, 1991). While this has not been studied specifically in the past, we also expected that the experience of developing a community food map would likewise stimulate an enhanced sense of community belonging and connectedness. The second overall goal of the program was to increase knowledge in the areas of cultivated gardening, forest foods, and nutrition and health. Every workshop included time spent learning experientially in the cultivated garden or forest garden. Workshop participants were to be engaged physically in every aspect of planning, preparing, planting, maintaining, and harvesting the cultivated garden. The first workshop included a guided experience in planning and assembling 3 large garden boxes. The second involved a hands’ on comparison of soils under different combinations of compost and peat moss as well as a guest leader with specific insight on composting. In the planting workshop, participants handled and planted different seeds and explored the reasons for planting under different depths and condition of soil. Weeding, thinning, and watering, as well as plant supports were discussed as circumstances warranted. Harvesting and preparation were likewise covered as participants engaged physically with these activities in the harvesting and kitchen workshops. This experiential approach to learning how to garden has been found to be effective in other garden programs (Parmer, Salisbury-Glennon, Shannon & Struempler, 2009). We sought to increase forest food knowledge by encouraging the workshop coordinators to access the local knowledge of elders and hunters in the community for activities and demonstrations relating to the acquisition and preparation of forest foods. Discussions and story-
  34. 34. The Learning Garden 34   telling among the workshop participants themselves also allowed for knowledge sharing in strategies relating to forest foods. The food mapping exercise was a vivid demonstration of community knowledge sharing in forest food. Opportunities to learn about food and nutrition were likewise built into most workshops. Discussions and presentations relating to the nutritional quality of processed food, forest food, and the products of the cultivated garden allowed for comparison and insight into the health impacts of various foods. Such techniques have been used successfully in several similar programs (e.g., Parmer, et al., 2009; Lautenschlager & Smith, 2007). Kitchen activities conducted at each workshop for the preparation of group snacks and lunch also provided an opportunity for experiential learning in the skills needed to prepare a variety of healthy food options. The food journals allowed participants to become aware of the trends in their food choices and to connect the nutritional quality of their diet with their sense of well-being (de Castro, 2009). Experiential learning about the  role of worms in composting, in  Ginoogaming. 
  35. 35. The Learning Garden 35   The cultural fit of a health promotion program is critical to its success (e.g., Prior, 2009; Anderson, Scrimshaw, Fullilove, Fielding, Normand, 2003). The program was designed to flexibly adopt a shape that was consistent with the cultural perspective of the given community. For example, traditional ceremonies and celebrations (Powwow, Trapper’s festival) were incorporated into the workshop cycle under the direction of the coordinators. Dialogue and story telling in the area of traditional forest foods and the development of the food map were also intended to ensure a traditional cultural perspective. By bringing people outdoors to connect physically with the land and the food it provides, we also intended to increase a sense of connection to the land, which is intimately related to culture in the Aboriginal worldview (Wilson, 2003). The fourth and fifth workshops explicitly connected culture with health and food by taking participants through a “mindful eating” exercise (Bays, 2009) in relation to both Western junk food and more traditional Aboriginal food. Discussion concerning the values that support consumption of each type of food followed from questions such as “why do you eat traditional food (e.g., moose meat) / Western food (e.g., chips)? Who are you with when you eat each type of food and what are you doing? How do you feel after eating large quantities of each? What cultural values are reflected in each type of food and eating experience? Guided discussion then explored how the different cultural values reflected in food behaviour and choices may affect individual and community health and well-being. The Present Study As stated above, the specific goals of the program were to increase self-rated physical health, emotional well-being, life satisfaction, and social capital, and to increase knowledge of vegetable gardening, forest foods, and nutrition and health. The purpose of the research was to (1) examine the outcomes of the program against these goals and to explore three additional
  36. 36. The Learning Garden 36   research questions based on the gaps identified above in the literature review. Specifically, (2) we observed through qualitative analysis the process of learning that unfolded in the context of the program with an eye to understanding whether the holistic, experiential, and place-based approach we used resonated with program participants. In addition, (3) we drew upon quantitative survey data to better understand participants’ current food behaviours, food values, and perceptions of the food system, in addition to how these perceptions and behaviours correlated with other variables of interest, including holistic health and cultural identity. Finally, (4) we explored through qualitative data the participants’ perceptions of place and sought a better understanding of the interactions among place, food, and culture. The research design involved a mixed methods approach including quantitative, survey data, and qualitative data in the form of observations, transcribed workshop sessions, and interviews. In order to test the outcomes of the program, we intended to conduct a pre-test survey of program participants in the spring and a post-test survey with the same participants in the fall. The survey included measurements of the indicators of holistic health (self-rated physical health, emotional well-being, life satisfaction, and social capital), as well as self-rated knowledge of forest foods, gardening, and nutrition, and measures of food behaviour, food values, perceptions of the food system, and cultural identity.
  37. 37. The Learning Garden 37   Communities The Learning Garden Program was implemented in partnership with two First Nation communities (Ginoogaming and Aroland) to increase health and knowledge of gardening, forest foods, and nutrition and health within each community. Aroland, Ontario is a Cree and Ojibwe First Nation community located 330km North East of Thunder Bay where approximately 325 reside. Ginoogaming, Ontario is an Ojibwe First nation community located 300km North East of Thunder Bay where approximately 303 reside. Both communities participated in this partnership in the hopes of building capacity in their communities, and had pre-existing relationships with the university researchers through a community garden project conducted in 2007 and ongoing work on food system contaminants. In addition, several members from Constance Lake First Nation, which has a population of approximately 283 and is located 172km east of Ginoogaming, participated in the workshops held in Ginoogaming First Nation. Members from the communities Elders and youth planting a garden in  the bush, Aroland. 
  38. 38. The Learning Garden 38   were actively involved in the program: community-based coordinators ran the knowledge exchange workshops, and many others participated in maintenance of the cultivated gardens. Method Participants Participants in the workshops were a broad sampling of community members, including children from science classes in each community (Aroland 12, Ginoogaming 10) and their teachers (Aroland 2, Ginoogaming 1), adolescent youth who participated through summer employment opportunities run by their band councils (Aroland 3, Ginoogaming 22), adults employed by the health centres (Aroland 1, Ginoogaming 3, Constance Lake 5), elders and other community members (Aroland ~ 25, Ginoogaming 6). In Aroland, a large number of community members participated in a community blueberry harvest that was run as a workshop, but was also a broader community venture. In Ginoogaming, approximately 8 individuals employed by their health centres, including 5 from Constance Lake, participated regularly throughout the summer. Ginoogaming coordinator leading a  workshop 
  39. 39. The Learning Garden 39   With the exception of this core group, most individuals in Ginoogaming and all of those in Aroland participated intermittently, attending a small number of workshops throughout the summer, with particular attendance in spring and fall. All workshop participants were volunteers. We had not expected to see such variability in attendance throughout the program and to see the greatest dedication to the program coming from existing community health workers. These community health workers (8 in Ginoogaming / Constance Lake and 1 in Aroland) were particularly interested in learning about gardening and forest foods as ways to enhance their own health and that of their community members. Several indicated that opportunities for training in this area were otherwise limited. All individuals who participated in a workshop were provided with a copy of the cover letter (Appendix B). The purpose and design of the program and research were explained and individuals were invited to participate in the quantitative research and interviews. The children in the sciences classes participated in the workshops but not in the quantitative research, nor in the interviews. As explained in the cover letter, all participants in the workshops understood that audio recordings and notes would be taken during the workshops. As a result of this intermittent pattern of attendance, it became clear that we would not be able to run the quantitative study as a pre-post survey design as we had intended. This meant that we were not able to conduct a quantitative assessment of the outcomes of the program (i.e., change in holistic health and knowledge over time), which presented a significant limitation to the research. However, we were able to explore the outcomes of the program through the qualitative data. Furthermore, instead of having each of one group of participants complete the survey twice (spring and fall) as we had intended, we collected survey data from each willing participant throughout the program, regardless of the number of workshops they attended and
  40. 40. The Learning Garden 40   when. This allowed us to explore the second research question regarding food system usage and its correlates with quantitative data. This revised procedure resulted in N=18 participants including 5 males and 13 females. The age of this sample ranged from 16 to 66, with a mean age of 30. Five individuals, including 4 from Constance Lake and 1 from Aroland, participated in the more focused interview questions. Materials and Procedure: Quantitative Study Workshop attendees who were interested in completing a survey first completed an informed consent form (Appendix C), and were then provided with a copy of the survey (Appendix D). Participants generally completed the survey during a break from the workshop, although a small number took the surveys home to return them at the next workshop. Following informed consent, participants generated a code name based on certain letters of their own names and their mothers’ names for the purposes of matching pre and post-test surveys, and then responded to a number of demographic items including age, gender, and language use. Participants then completed each of the following sections of the questionnaire. Upon completion of the questionnaire, participants were thanked and given a debriefing letter (Appendix E). Food Knowledge. The first set of questions assessed participants’ self-rated knowledge of forest and cultivated food production and nutrition. Participants indicated on a 5-point likert scale (1 = not at all, 2 = a little, 3 = moderately, 4 = quite a bit, and 5 = extremely) how knowledgeable they felt they were of 14 areas, such as locating where whitefish can be caught, planting seeds for vegetable plants, and preparing healthy food. These items were grouped into 3
  41. 41. The Learning Garden 41   subscales and alpha reliability4 of each was found to be adequate. These were: traditional food knowledge (6 items, alpha = .85), cultivated gardening (4 items, alpha = .94) and the role of nutrition in health (3 items, alpha = .88). These items were developed by the research team to allow respondents to self-assess their knowledge in the three areas of knowledge the program was targeted to increase, forest foods, cultivated gardening, and nutrition and health. Physical Health and Nutrition. Participants then completed a section on physical health and nutrition, beginning with four single-item measures assessing (1) self-rated general health (1 = poor, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent), (2) self-rated mental health (1 = poor, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent), (3) perceived levels of life stress (1 = not at all, 2 = not very, 3 = a bit, 4 = quite a bit, 5 = extremely), and (4) self-rated weight (1 = very unhealthy, 2 = unhealthy, 3 = average, 4 = healthy, 5 = very healthy). They then checked off any of 16 activities they had participated in within the past 3 months, including walking, gardening, and bicycling, and self-rated their levels of physical activity (1 = not at all active, 2 = not very active, 3 = a bit active, 4 = quite active, 5 = extremely active). Following these measures, participants rated how much they typically ate each of 20 foods, including locally available (e.g., moose, blueberries) and store-bought foods (e.g., beef, bananas) on a 5-point likert scale (1 = not at all, 2 = a little, 3 = occasionally, 4 = often, 5 = very often), and then self-rated the nutritional level of their eating habits (1 = very unhealthy, 2 = unhealthy, 3 = average, 4 = healthy, 5 = very healthy). Participants were then asked to circle yes or no if they had been diagnosed with any of 7 chronic health conditions including diabetes and high cholesterol, and indicated if they smoked.                                                              4  Cronbach’s Alpha assesses the reliability or internal consistency of a survey measure, it is an indicator of  how well the items in a scale correlate amongst themselves.  
  42. 42. The Learning Garden 42   Subjective Well-Being. Participants then completed the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985) by indicating agreement with 5 items such as, “In most ways my life is close to my ideal,” using a 5-point likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree). Alpha reliability of this scale was found to be .80. To assess emotional well-being, participants completed the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988), a 20-item measure on which participants indicate how often they feel each emotion using a 5-point scale (1 = very slightly or not at all, 2 = a little, 3 = moderately, 4 = quite a bit, 5 = extremely). Alpha reliability was found to be .94 for the positive affect items (e.g., excited, enthusiastic) and .84 for the negative affect items (e.g., upset, guilty). Social Capital. Participants then completed a 12 item measure of social capital adapted to a First Nations context and based on the work of Mignone (2003). This measure assesses the bonding, bridging, and linking aspects of social capital. Bonding refers to the quality of the relationships among members of a group (e.g., “generally speaking, most people in this community can be trusted”), and bridging refers to connections formed between groups (e.g., “People in this community tend to always associate with the same group of people”). Linking, which was recently proposed by Szreter and Woolcock (2004), explicitly recognizes the mechanisms with which people form links across different levels of social, economic, or political power (e.g., “My community works together with other First Nations to improve the situation of First Nations people”). Participants indicate agreement with these items on a 5-point likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree). Reliability of this scale was found to be alpha = .88.
  43. 43. The Learning Garden 43   Food Security. The next section of the survey assessed participants’ perceptions of and behaviours within the food system. The first questionnaire consisted of 21 items assessing perceived food security. The first 17 are a measure of perceived food security generated by the first author (Lychowyd & Stroink, 2008; Skavinski & Stroink, 2008), which assesses individuals’ perceptions that they are able to access sufficient food (e.g., “I have easy access to sources of nutritious food”). The remaining 4 were drawn from government-based measures of food security and emphasize hunger or lack of food in the home (e.g., “In the past year, the food that you and your family had ran out, and there was no way to get more”) (Bickel, Nord, Price, Hamilton, & Cook, 2000). All items in this scale were rated on a 5-point likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree). For the present analyses, only the first 17 items were used, and were found to be reliable; perceived food security was reliable at alpha = .95. Participants then indicated how frequently they accessed food from each of 14 sources, including grocery stores, gathering, hunting, and sharing on a 6-point likert scale (0 = Not available in my community, 1 = never or very rarely, 2 = Rarely, 3 = Sometimes, 4 = Often, 5 = Always or almost always). These food behaviour items, developed for the present study, were grouped into 3 subscales, including (1) grocery/convenience (3 items assessing behaviours of frequency of visiting a grocery store in Thunder Bay, grocery store in nearby town, and convenience store), (2) gathering (5 items assessing behaviours of gathering berries, gathering herbs, gathering medicinal plants, gathering wild rice, and gathering other forest products), and (3) fishing/hunting/trapping (3 items assessing the behaviours of fishing, hunting, and trapping). However, the item “grocery store in Thunder Bay” was removed from the grocery/convenience subscale because of a low alpha reliability coefficient of 0.45. By removing the item, it improved
  44. 44. The Learning Garden 44   the alpha reliability coefficient to 0.60. The alpha reliability coefficients for the gathering and fishing/hunting/trapping subscales in the present study were 0.81 and 0.84, respectively. The perceived attributes of the food system were assessed by asking participants to think about where their food comes from, and to indicate how much they feel that system possesses each of 9 attributes developed for the present study on a 5-point likert scale (1 = not at all or very little, 2 = slightly, 3 = somewhat, 4 = quite a bit, 5 = completely or very much). Items which were developed by the research team included, “under your personal control?”, “safe?”, and “trustworthy?” With the item, “influenced by corporate or business interests” removed, these remaining items were found to have adequate reliability, alpha = .82. The values that guide participants’ food choices were assessed by having participants respond to the prompt, “When choosing food to eat, it is important to me that the food…” with 16 items developed for this study, including “is affordable,” “is healthy”, and “comes from the land nearby”. Participants responded to these items using a 5-point likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree). The food values items were grouped into 3 subscales on the basis of face validity and subscale reliability. These subscales were, (1) cheap and easy, or how much the participant valued food that was inexpensive and easy to prepare (8 items, alpha = .90), (2) healthy, or how much the participant valued the health of the food they ate (4 items, alpha = .84), and (3) cultural, or how much the participant values culture pertaining to the food they eat (4 items, alpha = .90). Cultural Identity. There were three measures of cultural identity included in the survey. The first 12 items are Cameron’s (2004) measure of social identity, adapted to assess participants’ actual levels of identification with each culture (Aboriginal and Canadian). Participants responded to each item twice, once for each identity. The 3-factor scale assesses (1)
  45. 45. The Learning Garden 45   the centrality of the identity, or the subjective importance of the group to the individual’s identity, (2) the in-group affect associated with the identity, or the emotions that arise for the individual as a result of membership in the group, and (3) the in-group ties associated with each identity, or the psychological ties that bind the individual to the group. Participants indicated agreement on a 5 point Likert scale (1 = Strongly disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly agree). The alpha reliability coefficients for the overall measure of cultural identity for Aboriginal culture and Canadian culture were 0.67 and 0.80, respectively. Two additional measures of cultural identity, the first assessing aspects of participants’ implicit identity structure and being developed by the first author, and the second assessing Bicultural Identity Integration (Benet-Martinez & Haritatos, 2005; Haritatos & Benet-Martinez, 2002) were for exploratory purposes only and were not analyzed in the present research. Procedure: Qualitative Study This research adopted a mixed-methods approach and incorporated both qualitative and quantitative data to ensure as rich an understanding of the health learning process and the perceptions of the people involved as possible. As described by Trull, Stroink, Nelson, & Ray (2009), the mixed- methods approach is particularly advantageous in research involving First Nations people. For example, in a quantitative survey design, the questions and variables of interest are defined in advance by the researcher, who may not be fully aware of the complexity of factors that define the issues at hand within the community itself. Therefore, the findings of a purely quantitative study may not accurately reflect the full situation as perceived within the community.
  46. 46. The Learning Garden 46   Qualitative research that adopts a phenomenological approach (Groenewald, 2004) brings forward the voices of the community members themselves, taking in the actual lived experiences of the participants throughout the research process. Therefore, the qualitative portion of this research attempts to capture the essence of the people and their holistic experiences in the context of the learning program, exploring the meanings that the individuals themselves create and assign to events in the workshops. As such, a phenomenological approach to qualitative research is considered to be compatible with Indigenous peoples as well as indigenous approaches to knowledge and knowledge-sharing (Struthers & Peden-McAlpine, 2005). Furthermore, one of our research questions involved an ongoing assessment of the learning process and participants’ experiences in the program. This question is best addressed through methods that are open to the emergent qualities of the experience as taken from the participants’’ perspectives. The usual quantitative approach to assessing learning, by testing for concrete pieces of knowledge in a paper and pencil quiz, would not have been appropriate in this setting. Specifically, given the organic and community-driven nature of the program, and the cyclical and holistic view of learning-for-wellness adopted in the Learning Model, a holistic approach to observing the dynamic evolution of knowledge within the community as a whole is more appropriate. Therefore, by conducting naturalistic observations within the workshops themselves as well as more focused interviews with the participants as part of the qualitative research, we are able to gain insight into the actual process of learning as experienced and defined by the participants themselves. In sum, the present research adopted a mixed-methods approach and considers the contributions of both qualitative and quantitative approaches to be of equal and complementary value. We will now describe each of the qualitative data collection techniques in more detail.
  47. 47. The Learning Garden 47   Observations. Field notes were collected by a student researcher who attended the workshops in Ginoogaming and Aroland from May to September, 2008. Because workshops in Aroland were at times held spontaneously, and the researcher was not always able to schedule a trip to the community, there were three workshops in Aroland that were held with no student researcher present. In these cases, a verbal report was received from the community coordinator, and noted by the principle investigator. There were also three workshops in Ginoogaming that a different student researcher from our team attended, again due to scheduling difficulties. The researcher collected audio recordings of each workshop and kept observational notes of events as they unfolded. The student researcher would also participate in the workshops, providing knowledge of cultivated gardening where appropriate. Field notes are critical to qualitative research (Neuman, 2000). Given the relatively narrow focus of this qualitative research on the learning process, and to avoid having the student researcher’s interpretations obscure the essence of the participants’ discussions (e.g., Fouche, 1993), only observational notes were taken, and all analysis and reflection were conducted afterward by the researchers and community coordinators. The student researchers were instructed to take note of events that would give meaning and context to the audio recordings. For example, to note the actions and activities that were taking place at different times (e.g., group moves to the garden, conversation occurring during weeding, description of traditional ceremony), and to record reactions of individuals and groups that may not be audible (e.g., group seems surprised by information on food miles). Verbatim transcriptions from the audio recordings were made by a team of 3 students under the supervision of the student who collected the data using ExpressScribe software equipped with a foot pedal.
  48. 48. The Learning Garden 48   Interviews. Five interviews were conducted involving 1 male and 1 female from Aroland, 1 male from Ginoogaming, and 2 females from Constance Lake. The latter two women were interviewed together. All interview participants were over the age of 18 and had participated in at least one workshop. The interviews varied in length from 20 to 60 minutes and were conducted between August and September, 2008. Four of the interviews were held by the primary student researcher and one was held by the principle investigator. Questioning was open-ended, with probes to ensure key topics were covered in detail. These key topics were: (1) perceptions of individual and community health, (2) holistic, place- based health learning, and what this meant to participants, (3) perceptions and knowledge of the forest and cultivated gardens, (4) experiences of social capital, and (5) the nature and compatibility of food-related cultural values. While this topic list provided the interviewer with a guide, the dialogue was allowed to flow naturally, and interviews often focused more on one or two of the topics than the others. Four of the interviews were recorded and transcribed. In one interview the audio equipment malfunctioned and the interviewer took detailed notes of the participant’s responses. Data Analysis Participants’ responses on each survey item were entered and analyzed using SPSS. Preliminary analyses, including measures of central tendency, variability, and distribution were conducted to check for entry errors, outliers, and normalcy. No issues were identified. The phenomenological approach to qualitative data involves displaying findings in the form of themes (Struthers & Peden-McAlpine, 2005). Data was analyzed through intensive and repetitive reading through the transcripts and notes, sharing and discussing emergent themes within the research team and community coordinators, and then refining and narrowing themes
  49. 49. The Learning Garden 49   into key findings. This process was guided by the research questions of the study. Upon analysis of this data it became clear that emergent themes brought insight into the following research questions (1) the outcomes of the Learning Garden program in terms of holistic health and knowledge of forest and cultivated food and nutrition, (2) the process of learning that unfolded in the Learning Garden program and participants’ experiences of gardening, (3) the state of the current food system, its security and sustainability and its relationship with other variables such as social capital, and particularly (4) the meaning of “place” and how learning in and through place impacts both health and food security. The qualitative findings on the state of the food system complement the quantitative data, both descriptive and correlational, in this area. Results The goals of the program were to increase self-rated physical health, emotional well- being, life satisfaction, and social capital, and to increase knowledge of vegetable gardening, forest foods, and nutrition and health. The purpose of the research was to (1) examine the outcomes of the program against these goals, (2) to observe the process of learning that unfolded in the context of the program, (3) to better understand participants’ current food behaviours, food values, and perceptions of the food system, and how these correlated with holistic health and cultural identity, and (4) to explore participants’ perceptions of place and the interactions among place, food, and culture. The presentation of the results will follow the structure of these four research questions, and will integrate findings from both qualitative and quantitative data where possible, as this provides a rich image of the overall findings. 1. Outcomes of the Learning Garden Program
  50. 50. The Learning Garden 50   The goals of the program were to increase holistic health and knowledge in the areas of gardening, forest foods, nutrition and health. Given that we were unable to collect survey data from a single group of workshop participants both before and after the summer, we were unable to directly test these outcomes of the program. The lack of both pre- and post- intervention data from a large group of consistent workshop participants means that we are unable to objectively assess change in health and knowledge over time. While the quantitative data did not allow us to test these outcomes, we were able to document moments of transformative insight and behavioural indicators of learning through the qualitative data. For example, the demonstration of mindful eating was clearly a unique experience for program participants, who were actively engaged in the exercise and contributed many observations of the taste, texture, and experience of different foods including healthy, unhealthy, processed and local/traditional foods. The participants in this workshop were primarily youth and young adults, and the usual background chatter and movement ceased during this portion of the exercise. The ensuing discussion around the holistic experience of food, the physical, psychological, social, and cultural or spiritual dimensions was likewise spirited and “a- ha” moments or expressions of insight (e.g., utterances, facial expressions) were documented in 10 of 18 people present. One youth commented, “We pray before eating moose meat, we honour it… we don’t do this when eating candy or other junk food.” At another workshop, one woman laughed at the new realization that she had been throwing out rhubarb, which she had thought was a weed, growing in her own backyard.Furthermore, behavioural indicators of learning were recorded. In Aroland, 4 people planted their own gardens at home for the first time, in Ginoogaming, 3 did so, in Constance Lake, participants from the workshops planted a garden
  51. 51. The Learning Garden 51   behind the Elders’ complex. In Aroland, a community-wide blueberry harvest resulted from discussions that originated in a workshop session. The quantitative data was also not sufficient to directly observe changes in participants’ holistic health throughout the learning program. However, observation of the participants in the program suggest that some foundations were laid that could contribute to increases in participants’ holistic health. For example, the workshops included a food preparation component, including soups, salads, and sandwiches using food from the garden where possible. Participants also took food home from the garden, excited to include it in their meals. For example, participants were excited about being able to take home ripened onions, one declared, “I’m going to make a salad.” With respect to cabbage from the garden, another was planning to include it in a moose meat stew, and the making of cabbage rolls was discussed. In Aroland, the coordinator observed that many community members were now gathering blueberries, getting outside and physically active for the first time in a long time. There was also recognition that attending to the forest and cultivated gardens builds holistic well-being and connectedness. One individual in Ginoogaming spoke, “when I’m going through a stressful day here, I go out and attend the garden, and I feel just perfect, I feel like I’m just on air.” An elder in Aroland described feasting on wild game in the spring and fall as a way to connect with her deceased parents, “I go and feed them theirs and it is sort of like feasting with them.” Social capital was also considered a component of holistic health in this study. The workshop coordinators gained skills in leadership and community development, as well as in building partnerships with outside organizations including the university team and other community groups. For example, in Ginoogaming, the coordinator and other staff at the health centre planned to establish contact with the horticultural society in town for future gardening
  52. 52. The Learning Garden 52   projects. Youth from both communities were hired by the Band office to gain experience working with the coordinator or in developing local food initiatives. The participants from Constance Lake took leadership in establishing gardens in their home community. In Ginoogaming, where an elder had an old garden box, a group of women from the workshops went over, weeded and planted some potatoes in the garden, applying the knowledge they had gained from the previous workshop. Existing traditional practices that were discussed and passed along in the workshops may also build social capital. For example, one participant in Aroland described, “with white fish we use nets, cause we never fish them we just get them and take them out and bring them back to our grandfathers, and they smoke them. And everybody would come and have a feast and eat. Anyone who is walking by will come and check it out, and end up having a nice meal.” As further demonstration of increased social capital at the regional level, the researchers have been contacted by other communities interested in pursuing gardening projects themselves in the 2009 season.
  53. 53. The Learning Garden 53   2. Process of Learning The second purpose of this research was to observe the process of learning as it unfolded in the context of the Learning Garden program. Drawing on the qualitative analyses, we sought to understand whether the holistic, experiential, and place-based approach we used in the program resonated with program participants. These findings are organized around two key themes: (1) Learning Process, and (2) Understandings of the Garden. (1) Learning Process. Participants demonstrated a clear preference for experiential learning, and workshops generally occurred either out in the bush with the coordinator, or around the box gardens, with questions being addressed while everyone worked together on weeding or One of 3 Ginoogaming box  gardens mid‐summer  Aroland fall harvest
  54. 54. The Learning Garden 54   thinning of plants. For example, when holding discussions in the health centre, on four separate occasions youth were noted to ask, “when are we going outside?” and to become more engaged and participatory once this transition was made. The composting workshop, in which participants built their own composter and handled the worms and layers of “worm food,” were particularly engaging opportunities for learners, and significant discussion was had on the science of compost and soil preparation in this very hands-on learning environment. Learning was also clearly understood to be lifelong, as attendance within one workshop could vary from a class of elementary school students to adults and elders. The Learning Garden program was explicitly designed to be holistic, addressing the whole individual, including emotional, mental, spiritual and physical aspects, as well as his or her connections with community and nature. However, participants showed us a new depth to the idea of holistic learning that depends upon and reflects the particular cultural orientation of the individuals involved. Specifically, we found that the bimonthly schedule of workshops held at a set time in the health center worked well with some participants but also seemed to prevent other potential participants from joining in. When set up as a formal workshop in this manner, community members sent their children, suggesting the belief that children learn formally. However, many adults in the community preferred to do “workshops” at a kitchen table, or in the bush, to do them spontaneously one-on-one with the coordinator, to immerse their learning into their settings and routines of daily living. This style of immersed learning is profoundly holistic. This preference was communicated to the Ginoogaming coordinator by 3 community members who did not regularly participate in the workshops. Based on this observation, the community coordinator from Ginoogaming recommended that future versions of this program build in a facilitation role for the coordinator, with this individual providing informal advice and support to

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