Sustainable non-coercion

There is rising energy for a democratic, non-coercive, project-based educational model at Garibaldi school. I’m super excited about this. Granted I could get super-excited about a small school version of either French or Mandarin Immersion or a Fine arts program. Of course, Harry can’t see the point of school at all if it’s in English. “I already KNOW English.” Jeesh mom.

But I want to be part of a school community that recognizes the basic fact about kids: they’re learning machines. We don’t have to coerce them into learning, we need to rise to the occasion and invite their attention with compelling projects and problems to solve.

Garibaldi school is already a small, warm-hearted, culturally and linguistically diverse community, located in the middle of a neighbourhood with generations of handy, food-growing people. These are the elements I’d like to see us build on.

Kids love making, growing and building stuff. They love applying their knowledge to real problems. Whether they were in a mainstream track or the non-coercive track, working together on a school garden or building a solar food dehydrator or building a cob bench could provide the grounding in the skills we need to live more sustainably.

I want to be part of a local learning community. I’ve got questions for my neighbours. What’s that prickly, melon like vine that my Chinese Canadian neighbours grow? How do you prepare it for eating? Or is it more medicinal, or both? What about the greens I see drying on racks- what do you do with those? Can I try some?


I also want to know how to properly prune my grapes. I’m a non-pruner at heart (one reading of the revolutionary Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka convinced me) but this is SMALL space gardening. I want to learn how to get the most food, medicine, tea etc out of my garden while always increasing the soil fertility. Pruning might have a place. I’ll let my Italian and Portuguese neighbours convince me.

I want Harry to learn how to grow food as part of his education because it’s timely, practical, hands-on and will help him apply the concepts he learns in science, math, social studies. It’s a venue for exploring history and literature. When people share old skills and nearly lost arts they share stories.

I want him to know what weeds and wild plants soothe a sore stomach, build immune systems and help wounds heal. I want him to know how to build simple structures using natural and salvaged materials, how to plant and nurture a vegetable garden, how to design and repair simple machines, how to create, recycle and reuse the materials he touches. And know how to raise backyard chickens– the next big sustainability battle for Vancouver residents! I want him to know how to speak and listen to his neighbours, to express himself, reflect on and share his learning with a myriad array of tools, technologies (hello www!) and materials (books, art supplies, musical instruments, costumes).

The urgent question we face is what does living sustainably in the city look like? I’d like to be a part of a local community school that viewed the curriculum as a way to experiment with answers to that big question, and to share what we discover to all who are interested.

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School dreams

With a deep breath I trucked off to a community meeting last night on Garibaldi school (ugghh meetings). Again there seemed to be more people in the room than elementary students who currently attend- a pretty good indication of the importance of this small school to our ‘hood.

Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House was there ready and poised to take the lead on a proposal for a multi-use facility- strong start programs, preschool, literacy programs, after-school care etc. But I think there was a strong sense that we need something else in the mix whether it’s an immersion program or fine arts or what???

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Family Entertainment

We don’t do cable except for the web (which maybe a bit like saying you’re a vegetarian except for bacon). There is no doubt that what counts for family entertainment around here is far more strange than the steady diet of Mr Dress-up and The Friendly Giant I was nourished on.

The Yellow Submarine is the big fave this month. Watch it all on Google Video. As a result Harry is scared of Blue Meanies and has opinions on his favourite Beatle. Don’t you just love the open web? (He picks both Ringo and John- his parents agree.) I just learned that the director, George Dunning was a Canadian from this article celebrating it as a landmark in animation.

Some people who had dressed conservatively before they saw it were suddenly wearing bright colors, costumes and the latest in mod fashions. Hippies painted Yellow Submarines on their vans and in San Francisco a Beatles fan painted a scene from the film on the front of her house.”

Now that’s cultural impact. It is a beautiful way to spend an hour or so but here’s Harry’s favourite bit.

This song from the Icelandic show LazyTown gets my vote today because it’s a bit creepy, very catchy, and it features pirates.