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Imagine: Ecology and Teacher Education

Originally appears in the Winter 2008-2009 issue

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. – John Lennon

In 2004, I was hired to develop a new middle school teacher education program for our faculty. The first challenge was to find a way to teach middle school methods and philosophies to a group of student teachers with undergraduate degrees in a variety of disciplines. I needed to find a unifying theme that would enable students to interpret diverse subject matter while gaining practical experience in middle school teaching and philosophy (i.e., cooperative learning, hands-on learning, community involvement). I could think of a no more appropriate, relevant and revolutionary theme for teacher education than ecology. In the fall of 2005, ecology-centered middle school teaching training was born. Now in its fourth year, the middle school program provides core training that takes place not in a classroom but in a campus garden. How did such a convergence of ideas take place?

Middle school principles and ecology

The basis of middle school philosophy is set in the National Middle School Association’s seminal document This We Believe: Successful Schools for Young Adolescents. This text defines middle school philosophy and practice by delineating certain characteristics of successful middle schools. These include:

  • an inviting, supportive, and safe environment
  • high expectations for all members of the learning community
  • engagement by students and teachers in active learning
  • multiple learning and teaching approaches that respond to diversity among students

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Veronica Gaylie is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia–Okanagan in Kelowna. Her book The Learning Garden: Ecology, Teaching and Transformation will be published by Peter Lang Publishers (New York) in 2009.

For more information, visit the Learning Garden at UBC Okanagan at: