Jardin de diversidad

Diversity Gardens

A good way to engage students in a diversity of hands-on projects, while simultaneously building community and conserving important plant species, would be to construct school gardens composed of native and/or traditional plants.  Because there are so many diverse microlimates in Chiapas, each with plants uniquely adapted to the local conditions, it would be an extremely time-consuming and complicated task to make an exhaustive online list of every plant and how to care for it.  It would be much more efficient and far more meaningful an experience to consult knowledgable community members within each unique region or microclimate, such as agricultural producers, elders, and specialists in plant medicine, who could tell us which plants are traditionally cultivated in each region and how to care for them.  And what better investigators than the students themselves!  Because of course, they will be the ones who will be planting, caring for and learning about the plants.  By asking students to go out into the community and find information about traditional mesoamerican plants, not only would students gain/regain important knowledge about plants and cultural traditions; the exercise would also reinforce the value of knowledgable community members (especially elders), and would encourage a sense of community.  If each student returned to the classroom with special knowledge about one plant—and possibly even a few seeds to plant—the entire class would benefit from the knowledge of 30 different plant species.  Moreover, creating a class garden of traditional biodiversity would open many opportunities to further involve community members in the school garden project.  For example, the class could organize garden tours, could invite family and other community members to share traditional recipes, have potlucks, harvest seeds and organize a community seed exchange, etc.

Below are some possibilities for both short-term and long-term projects that could be incorporated into this diversity garden.

*Alvarez, Diego.  2005.  Tres: remedios traditionales (de la cultura Totonaca).  ISBN: 970-790-868-8. Great description of what culture is, and why it is important.  Focuses on the Veracruz/Puebla Totonaca culture.  Good for reflecting on own culture.

*Castaneda, Elisa Ramirez.  2005.  Maiz.  ISBN: 970-790-874-2. Beautiful book, directed towards indiginous children, all about corn—how it shaped culture, how it is used culturally, traditions, stories, songs about corn.  Really amazing.

*Uriostegui, Jesus Guzman.  1997.  Roman, un nino del Puuc.  ISBN: 970-18-0811-8. Story about a Yucatan Mayan boy, describing life in his pueblo, fiestas, food, planting, and the importance of asking permission from guardian ‘duenos.’

*Zepeda, Monique.  Xxxx.  Maria la curandera.  ISBN: 968-29-8161-1. About an wise elder woman who knows how to use plants for many different remedies.  Each page is bordered with illustrations of flowers of medicinal plants.

*Juan, Jose (Jose, Juan?).  2001.  Tablada para ninos.  ISBN: 970 186180-9. Many short, haiku-like poems (in Chuichol or wixarika/espanol) about animals and insects, plus a page of form poems.  Maybe a good model to follow for writing garden haikus?

*Manning, Mick.  2003.  !Chomp, chomp!  ISBN: 968-01-0055-3. Wonderful depiction of food chains, starting and ending with a little seedling.  The seedling is eaten by progressively larger animals, culminating in a fox, who then dies and is eaten by progressively smaller and smaller organisms, until from the soil springs another seedling, ‘eating’ the soil to grow.

*Cabrera, Celestino Perez.  2005.  Bepu di hokma haihu: como obtener mejores cosechas.  ISBN: 970-790-869-6. Wonderful book about reciprocity and our relationship with soil.  Talks about the importance of “feeding” the soil, and details how to do so.  Beautiful pictures of milpas put information into good visual context.

*Castaneda, Elisa Ramirez.  2002.  Comida y recetas.  ISBN: 970-18-8670-4. Wonderful book for kids about regional recipes, where food comes from, cultural significance of different foodstuffs, etc.  Illustrated by kids.

*Roig, Edurne Gomez.  2004.  Los transgenicos.  ISBN: 970-741-348-4. Very informative book, often citing corn and other foodstuffs as examples.

Considerations and potential obstacles:

–       Not all plants fruit/flower and/or produce seeds at the same time, which could present challenges in coordinating some of the activities

–       Plants may need to be limited to a certain size…  Obviously, a tree will not grow and fruit from a seed in the span of a school year (although willing students might take pride in leaving something for the next generation of students)

–       Might encourage posessiveness? (MY plant vs. YOUR plant)



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