Sprouting (Literally!) Engagement in Sustainability in the Undergraduate Curriculum: the “Heritage Garden Project” in Beginning German at Luther College
||Conference Concurrent Sessions: Academics
||Music City Center
|Floor / Room
||Oct. 8, 2013, 3:30 p.m. Oct. 8, 2013, 3:50 p.m.
The students know that Diane is coming to tell a special story on cold February morning. To their surprise, as she appears, however, she opens a little package and empties a few tiny seeds into each of their outstretched hands. With large black and white photos behind her, Diane then tells the story of her great-grandfather Johann’s immigration to a rural area just 30 miles from the college: As the home-sick young German farmer started life in this strange new land in 1894, he comforted himself by planting seeds he had carefully saved from his beloved pink tomatoes and bright purple morning glories back in Bavaria. He had carried the seeds with him all the way to America. To the students listening intently, Diane adds: “The seeds you hold in your hand now are descended directly from those my grandfather gave me just before he died on that same farm. I give them to you today, over 100 years since they came to this country, so that you can plant them and become part of that heritage too.” Often visibly moved by the tangible connection to Johann, the students then plant the special seeds, water them well, and set them in the sunny window near the classroom. The seeds sprout and grow, just as they did a century earlier in the new farm garden not far away. Later, they donate their harvested produce to the local food pantry that serves, among others, local immigrants, now from other lands. Thanks to the tiny seeds, both immigration and the past tense in German become real to the students as never before. Some share their excess seeds with their parents, as they also explore stories of their own ancestors, sometimes for the first time. The project also begins to connect students in a unique way with the campus landscape itself (“sense of place”), and with the dedicated food and garden experts on campus and in the local community. As this one simple, yet profound sub-experience illustrates, the larger heritage garden project impacts global learning to a degree that no textbook study alone can achieve. Best of all, as the seed connection illustrates, the project reinforces bilingually and multi-culturally that discovery we hope students will be making over and over in ever new ways: our collective and global responsibility as human beings to care for others and for the earth that sustains us all.