Growing in the City: A Toolkit Translating Urban Agriculture into Critical Pedagogy

Educators today play a more crucial role than ever. Helping students to understand their syllabus and score good enough marks to pass their exams – although still important, is not the sole focus of education anymore. As our world becomes more and more complex, the need for engaging students in meaningful learning experiences becomes more important as well. Now teachers also have to prepare their students to survive in and contribute to the rapidly changing world around them – a world that is facing serious environmental and social consequences of the actions of generations that came before them. Increased pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, water scarcity, the food crisis, and the subsequent loss of livelihood and identity – these are just some of the issues that students today have to grapple with already. These phenomena are even more pronounced in cities. Delhi for example, has ranked 4th on the list of the most polluted cities in the world as of 2022.

We must acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead for our students, and prepare them to face these challenges with resilience and creativity. As teachers, it is our responsibility to help our students understand these complex environmental and social issues and to empower them to find innovative solutions. This means going beyond the traditional methods of teaching and adopting more innovative approaches that can inspire students to think critically and creatively, to explore new ideas, and to work collaboratively towards solutions to real-world problems.

To encourage students to explore and understand alternatives, and think about how making their cities self-reliant can lead to environmental sustainability and provide more livelihood opportunities, their learning needs to be integrated with these ideas as well. They need to be given access to opportunities to learn about ground realities and how alternative frameworks to our current systems of existence can help in the long term. Urban agriculture is one such alternative, which not only provides fresh, healthy, and locally produced food, but also creates green spaces, reduces carbon emissions, and promotes community development and social cohesion. In Delhi, it plays an integral part in contributing to the city’s food demand and also provides jobs to thousands of people – especially migrants from rural areas who are able to use the skills they come here with to earn a living.

In this toolkit, we have provided tips, activities, and resources to help you incorporate urban agriculture into your lessons across a range of subjects, including social studies, science, and math. Through engaging activities such as field trips, case studies, debates, and other classroom engagements, your students will learn about the challenges facing urban farmers in Delhi and how we can protect their rights and the environment.
We hope this toolkit will help you inspire your students to become active and engaged citizens who are committed to creating a better world for themselves and for future generations. So let’s work together to empower our students with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in a world that is both complex and full of opportunity.

This toolkit explores 5 different questions that will help you and your students to understand the city you live in, and imagine different ways of making it more livable. It will urge you to go beyond the limited frameworks of our urban existence, and help young minds to start thinking about how they can contribute to make their worlds more self-reliant, sustainable, inclusive, and resilient.

Each chapter includes a brief overview on one important question that deals with different aspects of urban agriculture in Delhi, and also has detailed ideas for integrating the concepts the question deals with, within the curriculum. Different chapters have a different set of subjects listed (which are mentioned in the index), depending on the ideal applications of the concept for that particular subject. Please note that although this toolkit uses topics in the 8th standard CBSE syllabus for the academic year 2022-23 as its reference, it can be adapted as per the requirements of your syllabus as it changes over the years.

The Toolkit is based on an exploratory Case Study conducted with students and teachers of Joseph and Mary School. This exploratory case study aims to create a means of intervention in curriculum, establish urban agriculture as pedagogy, and transmit knowledge orally, by doing, and develop a more accessible and interactive learning experience where the students (aged 13-15) learn about urban farming and develop a critical understanding of food. The scoping project would involve interactions with local urban farmers, putting traditional and indigenous knowledge into practice and teaching to use experiential knowledge to connect more with the ambient environment.

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