We are now in the final home stretch of LFS 350 and getting ready to wrap up our Indigenous Foodscapes project, along with taking the time to reflect on our progress so far. Our weekly objectives this time around were to 1) work on our outlines for the Academic and Experiential Review papers in a way that ties them into our Indigenous Foodscapes project and 2) reflect on our progress thus far in the course by participating in a “Moment of Significant Change” workshop.
Our achievements in this stretch include our developing ability to really work well and cohesively as a team. By now, we have a solid system in place that allows us to communicate tasks and needs with one another, rely on individual strengths and talents for the project, and altogether present a very professional front to our community partner. We actually had a meeting last week with our community partner, Farm-to-School BC, at the Vancouver School Board office. There we had our second achievement when we successfully presented our project progress to everyone on this project: including Samantha Gambling (Community Animator for Farm-to-School BC and Lead on this project), Lori Snyder (Indigenous guide & Indigenous Foodscapes Coordinator), and other important individuals like Robert Clifton (Indigenous Education Consultant for this school district), Ashley Mason (Sustainability Coordinator) as well as a dietitian from Vancouver Coastal Health. They were all pleased by the thoroughness and density of our work, and ultimately Sam advised all the groups on this project to use an approach similar to ours for the final report deliverable to Farm-to-School BC.
We also all successfully started on our Academic and Experiential Review (AER) papers, which included theses that explore topics like the role of school gardens in promoting awareness of Indigenous food sovereignty, whether Elementary schools are an opportune setting for developing food literacy knowledge among youth, and who really benefits when we bring food-related interventions at the elementary school level. To date, we compiled our thesis statements and premises into detailed outlines to receive feedback from our Teaching Assistant, Wilson, and thereafter use that to polish our final AER paper due in a week (!).
These activities alone were very engaging and thought-provoking for us as they helped us draw everything together that we’ve learned this semester. Yet, this wasn’t it! We also participated in a workshop during Tutorial called “Moment of Significant Change” (Figure 1, below). This workshop demonstrated to us how far along we’ve come in this course already!
The graph at the top describes how our skills and knowledge level have changed over the term. For some of us, we faced challenges in the obscurity of the Indigenous Foodscape project and asked questions like… how do we even start to compile all this information together in one report from a dripping-with-interesting-facts garden tour?! So this understandably led to a little drop in our perceived skills level for a couple of us! However, as we developed a cohesive approach to tackling the report deliverable and presentation for Farm-to-School BC, we pleasantly realized that we actually gained some new skills through this learning process. Likewise, our knowledge gain has been an even steadier increase, as we learn in the LFS350 lectures how things like social class, income levels, gender, race and ethnicity, all affect food justice in various capacities. In addition, our walking tours with Lori have just been so inexpressibly valuable as we have learned tons from her first-hand about the Indigenous approach to learning, how to grow and care for native plants, their many food and non-culinary uses, and especially “who” all the individual plants in school gardens are. We say “who” out of respect for these plants that play such a crucial role in our shared ecosystem. With this much learning, it’s no wonder that we can all feel our knowledge base having expanded over the last few weeks.
Conversely, the graph on the bottom demonstrates how our emotions have played out over this semester to date, particularly with regards to LFS350. Clearly all of us faced some stressful times that caused a drop in our emotions around the weeks 3-5 mark (!), which was around the time when we first started really delving into this Indigenous Foodscapes project and started struggling with how the end result will be manifest itself in our final report. However, as we met more milestones as a team and became increasingly better at working together, as well as gaining more clarity from our community partner on the project needs, our emotions and course satisfaction went high again. Many of us do anticipate however another drop in our emotions as we face the stress of upcoming deadlines. However, we are confident that if we continue working together as we have, we will overcome that struggle with a successful finish.
In sum, the Moment of Significant Change workshop successfully allowed us to reflect on our journey thus far and realize that we have come a long way from where we started! This was also a valuable experience, because it was a conversation generator for the team to discuss how we have been feeling throughout the semester on this project. It was so helpful to see that everyone experiences ebbs and flows, and it is important to recognize this so that we can all be better at helping and encouraging one another. Upon further reflection for this blog post, it also dawned on us that our last meeting with the Indigenous Foodscapes team, at the Vancouver School Board, was a “moment of significant change”, because it gave us a clear idea of exactly what Farm-to-School BC is looking for in our final report deliverables so that we can keep moving forward in the project! All in all, it was very much needed to take a few steps back and ponder on the process and journey, rather than just the end results.
Moving forward, we have also taken the time to consider our strategy for a “Graceful Dismount” that ends this project on a successfully high note. Our goals are (1) to ensure we maintain constant collaboration and check-ins with one another for each remaining week, (2) to ask clarifying questions of our community partner with regard to the final deliverables in order to make sure we understand exactly what they need by the end of this experience, and (3) to create a timeline remaining tasks in the project that ensures adequate time for each component. With regard to our second goal in particular, we understand that it is critically important in these kinds of community projects that we truly cater 100% to our partner’s needs, rather than whatever we feel we want to deliver. Keeping the end goals of and benefits for our community partner is essential for a Graceful Dismount, so that we don’t exploit this experience into something that does not offer them true value.
That said, we are absolutely excited that the project completion date is in sight now! Our final steps for the project are now much clearer, and we need only compile and polish our remaining components for the infograph poster and final report. Here’s to ending this semester off on a positive note that we know will be useful and sustainable for our community partner!