Above: Students at ASD working on bee hives in the school garden.
Some schools have programs that are so brilliant they could serve as models for other schools all around the world.
When you learn about the Changemaker Education Program at the American School of Dubai, I think you'll agree with me that it is just such a program, and I am excited to introduce you to two educators who have built something really special. Laurence Myers is the Service Learning and Sustainability Coordinator at ASD and Sandy Garden is the Edible Education Coordinator. Their offices are in the same space and their programs are jointly run as the ASD Changemaker Education program.
The initiative began with service learning. Several years ago the Dubai government banned fundraising except through official channels and groups, and this transformed what was happening at ASD. Like many schools which have fledgling service programs, there were some co-curricular clubs running fundraising campaigns each year but there was no actual service learning in the curriculum. When the government decided to ban fundraising, a wonderful opportunity surfaced: to move away from this model and develop an embedded service learning program with an emphasis on all four types of service action (direct, indirect, advocacy and research). Laurence moved to ASD just after the shift began and was able to build the program from the ground up.
It wasn't long after this transition occurred that Sandy took over the garden space at ASD. It had previously been supervised by parents and, as students graduated and families moved away from Dubai, there was a need for someone to manage the garden in a more cohesive way. Sandy, a passionate gardener, was keen to take over and find curricular links to get students out into the garden space.
A kitchen classroom followed, allowing Sandy to teach cooking skills using produce from the ASD garden, and then came the bees. In proper hives! Sandy manages a full beekeeping area and students in three different grade levels take care of the bees and learn about how important these pollinators are for the health of the planet and the dietary health of humans (as a result of the many food items that rely on bees for pollination).
In the video interview below, you'll hear Laurence and Sandy explain the different components of their program and how they are working with teachers at ASD to build capacity for more and more curricular learning experiences related to the garden and to service learning. It would be amazing to see more schools adopt this model, and there is sage advice for educators in the interview about how to get started with building a Changemaker program on your campus.
In addition to the interview, check out this article (written by Laurence) about the program. You can also follow Laurence and Sandy on Instagram at: @ASD_Sustainable_Garden and @ASDChangemakers.
Sandy highly recommends the work of Alice Waters and The Edible Schoolyard. There are many resources on this website, and Alice is committed to bringing good, local food to school cafeterias in the US.
Additional resources to get a garden growing at your school:
1. Eartheasy: Complete Guide on how to start your school garden
2. Kids Gardening: Rationale and Resources for how to start or expand your school garden
3. Plant a Seed and See What Grows Foundation: Resources, Links and Examples of School Gardens
4. UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development Resources