Farm Curriculums and Education Projects

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For education to be aligned with the global sustainability agenda, a shift in education towards sustainable development policy, curriculum, and practice is necessary. The paper investigates the concept of the education sustainable development approach through ancestral (art and agricultural) practices. Notably, the purpose of the study is to build a curriculum for schools via the emphasis on agriculture and arts in education. The data will be obtained via action research methodology focused on the Indigenous paradigm. The research will provide vital information on curriculums and farm projects lined to education beneficial to communities.

The primary research question is “How the education sustainable development approach through ancestral, such as art and agricultural, practices can be utilized to get more in touch with local practices?” Three main variables in the practice of education for sustainable development (ESD) are international policy documents that influenced ESD, academic discourse in the ESD field, and students and instructors (Sinakou et al., 2017). Sinakou et al. (2017) mention that neither teachers nor students fully understand the SD notion. Therefore, it is vital to explain the significance of ESD practice to build a curriculum for schools. The researcher’s position is that more SD teacher training seems to be needed and enhanced interaction with the community and assessment of community needs through ancestral practices to develop curriculums.

Theoretical Framework

Sustainable development is a broad notion that may be construed in various ways. Essentially, Sinakou et al. (2017) suggest that sustainable development is viewed as a three-dimensional term with three components: the environment, the economy, and society. The significance of a comprehensive approach to the SD concept is stressed in recent international policy papers and academic discourse. Teachers have challenges assisting students in gaining a correct comprehension of the SD concept. According to Sinakou et al. (2017), they receive little guidance in teaching such a complex idea. Their interpretations of the SD notion are included in curriculum development and instruction. Teachers frequently simplify sustainability concerns to make them more transparent for students to grasp, which jeopardizes the development of students’ abilities to reflect on and analyze opposing viewpoints (Sinakou et al., 2017). Thus, curriculums can be developed based on ancestral (art and agricultural) practices to better understand the community’s interests and needs.

Learning about arts and agriculture can help analyze the community’s interests and needs. Incorporating awareness into higher education curriculum and pedagogy can assist students in reimagining their position on the planet and cultivating introspection, creativity, and incorporation to address the significant issues related to sustainability (Hensley, 2020). Matthew et al. (2019) emphasize that agriculture embraces all aspects of human activities: the art, act, cultural requirement, and science of making products through land cultivation and animal management, resulting in an activity web-chain that serves social and economic necessities. Agriculture is the lifeblood of humanity; consequently, wise countries worldwide prioritize it by improving and exploiting this segment for the maintenance of their teeming communities through revenue generation for beneficial projects (Matthew et al., 2019). Moreover, agriculture development offers work opportunities to prevent crimes, corruption, and other forms of misconduct that work against all elements of life, residing, and, most importantly, economic output.

Therefore, education for sustainable development (ESD) is vital. ESD practice is a method of teaching that aims to meet societal expectations by addressing environmental, social, cultural, and economic challenges that threaten the survival of life on Earth (Franco et al., 2019). It is critical to assist students and the greater community in developing skills for sustainable development (Franco et al., 2019). Hence, teachers are at the heart of curriculum creation and are in charge of introducing sustainable development to their students. Sinakou et al. (2017) claim that policymakers and scholars agree that the teaching approach to ESD enables instructors to disclose the complexities of SD in education. ESD aims to highlight the distinctions between various groups in society to allow students to observe the conflicts between the environment, the economy, and culture in daily life and policy-making (Sinakou et al., 2017). Hence, a comprehensive strategy for ESD is frequently seen as critical in developing and implementing curriculums.

Methodology of the Research

The methodology of the research is qualitative, namely action research. Action research is characterized as a participative, democratic process dedicated to creating practical knowledge to achieve desirable human goals, and it is based on a collaborative viewpoint (Brydon-Miller et al., 2003). Essentially, it aims to bring together action and thought, theory and practice, in collaboration with others, in the quest for honest answers to people’s immediate concerns, and, more broadly, the development of individuals and communities. Brydon-Miller et al. (2003) suggest that action research contradicts the claim of a positivistic perspective of knowledge, which argues that research must be objective and value-free to be trustworthy. Collaboration with others results in community and organizational improvements and personal improvements in the action researcher.

Action research views complexity, ambiguity, and conflict as stimulating and full of possibilities. When action researchers represent their activities, they admit to being profoundly altered by them (Brydon-Miller et al., 2003). Action researchers feel obligated to act collaboratively with that knowledge since knowledge is gained via action. According to action research, the theory may and should be developed via practice (Brydon-Miller et al., 2003). The approach is only meaningful when it is placed to use in the service of a technique aimed at producing a constructive change in society.

The action research will enable the researcher to obtain data directly working with the community members, such as farmers. Indigenous community research projects have primarily been produced under a dominant Western research paradigm that prioritizes the researcher as knowledge keeper and residents as passive participants (Koster et al., 2012). The implications of such research have been marginalizing for Indigenous peoples across the world, prompting demands for research decolonization through the formation of Indigenous research paradigms.

The researcher can better grasp the significant role played in this project by collaborating with community members in a reflective process formerly reserved for researchers. Indigenous paradigms are founded on belief systems that are more appropriate for Indigenous cultures and allow for research outputs that reflect and serve the people (Koster et al., 2012). The researcher will collaborate with Indigenous people to co-create the research method. It is equally critical to consider how the research’s benefits should be distributed to the community and how the community should govern the material created. Furthermore, the researcher will establish and sustain partnerships within Western ethics norms and Indigenous culture frameworks.

The data will be obtained on curriculums and farm projects linked to education to achieve community goals. The research process includes researching the community goals to get more in touch with local practices and beneficial curricula. Data collection will be conducted through a local needs assessment and field works with the community members. Action research will assist in integrating theory and practice to understand the community’s interests via the Indigenous research paradigm to ensure ethical conduct and quality.

Results and Findings

Undergraduate courses give significant opportunities for students to be trained and empowered with the information, skills, and drive to develop society in more sustainable paths. Ahmed et al. (2017) highlight the benefits of connecting primary scientific research with undergraduate education by presenting Farm-based Authentic Research Modules in Sustainability Sciences, an integrated experiential learning and primary research paradigm (FARMS). Additionally, FARMS are developed jointly with agricultural stakeholders through a local needs assessment on critical food system concerns and the potential to jointly identify evidence-based management solutions by academics and students.

Agroecology has progressed from a discipline that concentrated on applying ecological principles to crop production systems to a science and practice that focuses on the environmental, economic, and social components of agricultural systems and the overall food chain (Ahmed et al., 2017). The science entails investigating ecological processes within agricultural systems and developing evidence-based production systems that stress sophisticated ecological interactions capable of delivering ecosystem services for soil fertility, economic output, fertilizing, and pest and disease control (Ahmed et al., 2017).

Capacity development in the undergraduate classroom via experiences that provide students with the necessary knowledge, abilities, and drive to address complex food system concerns is one strategy to prepare future leaders for sustainability transitions. Ahmed et al. (2017) state that this strategy needs careful examination and reconceptualization of educators’ learning in the undergraduate classroom. Thus, teachers must critically examine how knowledge is created and how they teach students to ask questions, explore across disciplines, test prospective ideas, work with a wide variety of stakeholders, enable community participation, and execute workable alternatives.

Educators in the sustainability sciences combine the learning, practicing, and scientific communities in the FARMS model (Figure 1) to encourage a deeper and broader understanding of science and its prospects for improving the food system via research and community participation. Through primary research tailored to local food system concerns, the FARMS methodology assists teachers, students, and other stakeholders in co-constructing expertise (Ahmed et al., 2017). Furthermore, the FARMS model bridges scientific methods and practice through a community needs assessment by identifying locally relevant research themes.

Connecting education and research via farm-based authentic research modules in sustainability sciences (FARM) 
Figure 1. Connecting education and research via farm-based authentic research modules in sustainability sciences (FARM) 

As a result, the FARMS model connects course-based faculty-student research possibilities and can engage student university-based farms with academic departments via educational and research programs centered on experiential education. Student farms have been proved to be valuable learning environments because they give practical, real-world agricultural activities related to more conceptual academic topics (Ahmed et al., 2017). Given the significant number of current student farms and the growing number of new ones, there are an opportunity and a need for course-based education and research to occur on student farms (Ahmed et al., 2017). Thus, the use of FARMS on student farms legitimizes funding for these places while also improving the quality of organic agriculture and food systems courses via place-based active learning.

When establishing a curriculum, service-learning can be employed. Ahmed et al. (2017) acknowledge that service-learning is a sort of experiential learning that blends course learning objectives with community service by exposing students to possibilities for social change through curriculum activities. Furthermore, service learning, defined as connecting students with community partners to identify public issues while improving disciplinary competency, is a proven strategy of engaging students in real-world education. Numerous sustainable food system programs and courses emphasize learning through community work and civic participation, relying on the land grant purpose of combining research, teaching, and outreach into one’s job (Ahmed et al., 2017). Participation with public gardens, food pantries, and non-profit organizations are examples of service project-based learning in sustainable food systems curricula.

Each FARMS model is designed as a hands-on, place-based, exploratory science curriculum on regionally relevant food system themes to teach students to think critically and operate like researchers. The FARMS pedagogical paradigm aims to reimagine scientific education as a dynamic, participatory, and open-ended endeavor to pique students’ attention in sustainability sciences and build a desire to effect food system change (Ahmed et al., 2017). Essentially, FARMS is designed before the course and continues through a community needs assessment conducted during focus group sessions with local and regional agriculture operators.

These focus group meetings can be held in conjunction with existing gatherings. Ahmed et al. (2017) suggest conducting meetings during farmer conferences and agricultural extension workshops, or they can be organized by bringing manufacturers together in meetings exclusively. If in-person focus groups are not feasible, teachers can analyze community needs using an online or print survey. When using the FARMS model in a course as part of sequenced organic agriculture or sustainable food systems curriculum, the community needs assessment might be incorporated in a class that students complete before the FARMS course (Ahmed et al., 2017). Alternatively, at the end of a FARMS course, teachers might lead a community needs assessment to recommend research topics for subsequent course rounds.

FARMS-based courses should be organized around a critical group research topic, which may be split into different projects. They enable the students to spend at least twenty-five of their time conducting independent research (Ahmed et al., 2017). After determining the research topics and experimental design, the teacher plans and divides the projects into laboratories throughout the semester (Ahmed et al., 2017). It is vital to identify the corresponding skills and topic areas students will require to perform the FARMS research.

Additionally, a climate change curriculum may be administered using an integrated social studies and language arts framework. Siegner and Stapert (2018) suggest that the curriculum results from cooperation between a school, a non-profit dedicated to climate education, and a government body. The essential data gathering and evaluation instruments are student surveys, teacher interviews, and classroom observations following the first year of implementation. Students exhibit high levels of climate literacy, advances in reading comprehension, and general involvement with the issue based on these statistics (Siegner & Stapert, 2018). Hence, teachers reflect on the curriculum’s accomplishments and problems, while administrators suggest ideas for expanding and implementing the curriculum in other schools and situations.

Curriculum design and development process 
Figure 2. Curriculum design and development process 

The example of curriculum design developed for Lowell School is illustrated in Figure 2 above. The curriculum created for this pilot is the product of extensive cooperation, including both internal and external partnerships. Siegner and Stapert (2018) begin with obtaining ideas from the staff, attending local workshops focused on climate change, and building ideas. The community members involve administration, staff, parents, and climate education non-profit. According to the finding obtained, Siegner and Stapert (2018) created lesson outlines and materials aligned with the mission, vision, and ethos of Lowell School in Washington. Therefore, the curriculum was developed considering the local community’s interests via action research and the Indigenous research paradigm.

Quality, Truthfulness, and Ethical Concerns

Community-based action research is founded on several principles, including recognizing and addressing structural inequalities, focusing studies on critical public concerns, acknowledging various viewpoints. Koster et al. (2012) emphasize that it concentrates on cultivating empowerment, developing community potential, working with residents as collaborators, pursuing investigations as education, and honoring standard precautions for collaborating with Indigenous people. Indigenous paradigms are ethical because they are founded on more appropriate worldviews for Indigenous cultures and allow for research outputs that honor and benefit the community (Koster et al., 2012). Respect necessitates that researchers be modest, giving, and tolerant while co-creating the research process with Indigenous people. It entails being willing to accept the community’s choices and collaborating freely and honestly from the start. Reciprocal appropriation acknowledges that every research involves the appropriation and that sufficient advantages must be provided to all parties participating in the study (Kostedr et al., 2012). While the benefits for each individual participating may vary, they may all anticipate profiting from the research. Consequently, research outputs fit the requirements for duty and accountability by assisting or supporting the community.

The researcher should continue to shift away from traditional methodologies that promote conventional ways of working on Indigenous communities and toward methods that involve working with and for them. The action research is based on an ethic that respects and values the community as a reliable partner in the research question and procedure co-creation and communicates in the acquisition and sharing of knowledge (Koster et al., 2012). Therefore, quality and transparency are ensured by involving the Indigenous community in the research development and obtaining vital information regarding the society. Koster et al. (2012) state that any study was undertaken inside a community, regardless of its objective or technique, should respect the community by notifying it, seeking approval, and returning research findings. Such an approach may give the ethical space for a modern type of community research, but it necessitates the development of a connection with the community itself.

Discussion and Conclusions

The notion of the education sustainable development approach is investigated using ancestral (art and agricultural) traditions. The study aims to create a curriculum for schools that focuses on agricultural and arts in education. Essentially, Farm-based Authentic Research Modules in Sustainability Sciences (FARM), service learning, integrated social studies, and language arts framework are examples of curriculums/farm projects linked to education to get more in touch with local practices. Thus, the action research can help identify the community interests to develop the curriculum, including education sustainable development approach via agriculture and arts. Moreover, service learning should assist in connecting students with community partners to determine crucial community issues. The Indigenous paradigm is ethical because it is founded on worldviews more acceptable for Indigenous cultures and allows for research outcomes that honor and help the community.

Researching about the arts and agriculture can aid in determining the interests and requirements of the community. Instilling awareness in higher education curriculum and methodology can help students reimagine their place in the world. Moreover, the practice of education for sustainable development (ESD) strives to satisfy society’s expectations by considering environmental, social, cultural, and economic issues. As a result, it is critical in developing the education curriculum. Students will be able to grasp the differences between diverse groups in society and see the tensions between the environment, the economy, and culture due to the ESD. The suggestions for future research include conducting qualitative analysis based on the ESD curriculum perception among students.


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