Featured Volunteer Farm Friend: Miriam Gil

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Tell me a bit about yourself. What do you do outside of Landed Learning?

Miriam: My name is Miriam Gil. I’m a retired teacher from the Burnaby School District, where I taught French immersion for twenty five years. I’m also a professional artist, and I have been focusing more on my art production since I retired. This last couple of years I’ve been traveling and also volunteering for the Landed Learning program.


How did you first hear about Landed Learning and what motivated you to get involved?

Miriam: I receive the newsletter from UBC, as I did a master’s degree in art education here. In one of the newsletters there was an article about the Landed Learning program, and I became interested in it. I have always loved plants and nature, as I find it’s really healing for me to be around plants. I used to  run the gardening club for elementary students at Cascade Heights School and wanted to learn more about how to teach gardening to children. So as soon as I retired, I contacted Stacy, the  LL coordinator, and I was very fortunate she accepted my application.


What do you think is the value of this program being intergenerational? What is the value that you get from working with children and another adult partner and what do you think is the value that children get?

Miriam: I benefit from being with children, I find that I just thrive on their energy. I missed that when I stopped teaching, I missed that daily contact, that enthusiasm, that feeling that everything is new. Children give me hope about the future. The value of teaching young children lies in teaching them how to grow their own vegetables and where food comes from. I feel children benefit from being with adults who bring different expertise. We have volunteer gardeners, we have -like me- retired teachers, researchers, scientists, etc. Everybody benefits.


What we do here at Landed Learning is often considered as non-formal learning or education that happens in non-formal environments, what do you think are some of the most important features of this program that make it so unique and add value to formal education?

Miriam: For me, as a classroom teacher of many years, I always wished that I was teaching in the forests. Because even though there’s value in the traditional school system, there is also that “real life experience” that is a lot more holistic. For instance, when you see teachers teaching about plants, they may grow beans and a few plants by the windows in their classrooms but when they come here they have the whole farm, they see many crops growing, they have direct experience with the weather, so they get a whole picture of what farming is about. One other great value about this program is that children learn not only to  grow vegetables, but the connection with food and that’s amazing, because that’s something that our communities and societies have lost, that link. Here they can grow food, cook it and eat it.That whole cycle approach is very valuable.

What is the most important thing you have learned or the main takeaway from this program for you?

Miriam: I think my takeaway is the direct experience on how children’s knowledge is layered; how they have built up on what they know, and every time there’s something new. Over time children develop so many skills. They learn how to plant, how to make paper pots, how to water, how to make compost tea, etc. All this knowledge was built to the point where they have gained confidence, and perhaps they might be willing to try these things out at home later on on their own.

I always think about the future and I would love for these kids to become more responsible citizens and apply all this knowledge to their own lives. I hope this will influence their career choices, their perceptions of life and their involvement with the community in the future.


In one or two words, how would you describe this program and what it means for you?

Miriam: Community and future.


What would you say to someone who was considering volunteering with Landed Learning?

Miriam:  I would say “Do not hesitate!” You will learn and gain so much! You will learn from the kids and learn from yourself. And it is a great way to contribute to future generations.


Interested in Volunteering as a Farm Friend?

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