Researchers explored the role of an intergenerational approach in inspiring stewardship in middle school children by integrating farming activities with the school curriculum. Over six years in Vancouver, Canada, more than 400 children were involved in organic food growing, working alongside with teachers, university students, and volunteer community gardeners at an urban organic farm. Program activities included planting, harvesting, forest walks, honeybee care, soil testing, and conversations about ecosystems and food security. An action research approach was adopted in order to accommodate both research and program evolution. Based on six years of observations, reflections and interviews of the children and adults, researchers concluded that connecting sustainable growing practices to understanding of ecosystems were challenging for children. They found that promoting understanding of the "links between healthy eating and sustaining a healthy earth" is difficult because "the concepts are broad and abstract". For many children "the social, sensory, and intergenerational contexts and experiences were far more powerful, memorable and significant than the environmental and science learning." Some participants regarded "social, aesthetic and intergenerational experiences," and not science topics, as the primary rewards of participation in the farm program. Yet this program fostered appreciation of working in a diverse, intergenerational environment and helped participants learn about the environment within an authentic and action-oriented context.
SOURCE: Mayer-Smith, J., Bartosh, O., & Peterat, L. (2009). Cultivating and reflecting on intergenerational environmental education on the farm. Canadian journal of environmental education, 14, 107-121.