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Farm-Based Education for Kids Wins Top Award for Science Promotion

Hands-on gardening shows the science behind environmentally sustainable food production

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- (Marketwired) -- 06/12/14 -- A farm-based learning project by educators at the University of British Columbia (UBC) has earned national recognition for bringing generations together to learn about growing healthy food and the role of sustainable agriculture in a healthy environment. Named the Intergenerational Landed Learning Project, the educational team has been named the winner of the 2013 NSERC Award for Science Promotion - group category.

This $25,000 award honours groups who are inspirational in the way they promote science and engineering to the general public. Nominated by their peers across Canada, the winners stand out for their work explaining science to lay audiences, and encouraging young Canadians to pursue careers in the natural sciences and engineering.

The Intergenerational Landed Learning Project is a unique initiative by the UBC Faculty of Education that teaches children about the link between a healthy environment and human well-being by showing them how food is grown on a farm attached to the university.

Quick Facts

--  The Intergenerational Landed Learning Project has teamed up more than
    2,000 children aged 8 to 17 with volunteer community gardeners, who
    together grew food crops, cared for the soil, and learned about how
    climate, pests, and other environmental factors determine the success of
    any given planting.

--  There has been a special emphasis on girls and members of disadvantaged
    socio-economic groups, giving them a new view of their communities and
    their own lives.

--  In 2008, a satellite program was established at the Okanagan Science
    Centre in Vernon, BC.


"Our government recognizes the value of science education and promotion. I congratulate the University of British Columbia and the Intergenerational Landed Learning Project team for its success in teaching children how to grow food and the fundamental science concepts behind it. This project will inspire a new generation of natural scientists in Vancouver and communities across Canada."

James Moore, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for British Columbia

"I congratulate the Intergenerational Landed Learning Project for their award-winning work in promoting science. NSERC is very pleased with the Project's success in introducing so many students to the biological and environmental sciences in such a kid-friendly way."

Janet Walden, Chief Operating Officer, NSERC

It is tremendously inspirational to watch young people learn and grow in this project. Every one finds their own way of engaging with the wonders of science. They discover life wriggling and thriving beneath their feet, that stinky compost becomes rich soil, tiny seeds grow into huge, tasty kale, bees are precious, not dangerous, flowers transform into fruit, and that if you work with and steward the land you get a beautiful, bountiful harvest.

Jolie Mayer-Smith, Science Education Professor, Co-Founder and Director, Intergenerational Landed Learning Project

Associated Links


NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators. The agency supports almost 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding approximately 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging over 2,400 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

Intergenerational Landed Learning Project

In contrast to previous generations of Canadians, most young people today have little first-hand exposure to a working farm. This is especially true in highly urbanized settings like Vancouver. Consequently, many children can grow up without understanding where their food comes from, the environmental and health consequences of their food choices, and the challenges that farmers face.

This prospect inspired the Intergenerational Landed Learning Project, recipient of a 2013 NSERC Award for Science Promotion. The Project uses an innovative intergenerational food-growing approach to make science accessible and relevant for kids of all ages and socio-economic background. Target groups include new immigrants, low-income and Aboriginal youth, and girls.

Based at a working farm on the campus of University of British Columbia, the Project was launched in 2002, by professors Jolie Mayer-Smith and Linda Peterat. Its flagship program teams groups of children aged 8 to13 with volunteer gardeners. Together, they spend 10 to12 days during the school year doing hands-on, garden-based science. The participants grow food crops while learning about soil ecology, plant structure and function, environmental issues, nutrition, and health.

In 2005, the Project expanded to include summer camps, and in 2008 a satellite program was established at the Okanagan Science Centre in Vernon, BC. The Project's newest undertaking is a six-week outreach program in Vancouver, involving inner-city teenagers aged 13 to 18, who grow sustainable food in their schools and communities. The program inspires interest in plant and soil science and encourages careers in environmental leadership and sustainability.

Since its advent, the Intergenerational Landed Learning Project has involved more than 2,000 young people and 700 volunteers, and has attracted 35,000 visitors to its Web site. The Project brings garden-based science to youth and adults of all walks of life, giving participants a new view of their communities and their own lives. The novel intergenerational and mentorship design of the Project has been adopted by other educators and inspired new programs in community and school settings across Canada and internationally. Teachers view the Project as a unique opportunity to make science "real" and to reach students who have been unsuccessful and uninspired at school. For some, participation is truly transformational, contributing to new teaching practices that help them support and extend the dynamic learning they see happening in the garden.

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