The Immigrant and Her Land

By Debbie Ann Quiñones. Inspired by Blanchet-Cohen, N., & Di Mambro, G. (2015). Environmental education action research with immigrant children in schools: Space, audience, and influence. Action Research, 13 (2), 123-140.

I find the premise of the Action Research project to be a little ironic: The immigrant who has left her homeland comes to America to work the soil of her new land. Perhaps I romanticize with the symbolism; however, the reality of the project interests me because I am one who loves my country and her land. I garden for the beauty and practicality of the seed, which, when placed in soil, produces. In my photo I am with a student who joined me this day to prepare the soil for next season’s crop

I cannot help but see the analogy between the immigrant and the seed, which when planted in soil, given proper elements, and nurtured, will push her way to the surface for everyone to see her original and emerging beauty. This is what interests me most about the action research project presented in the article, which shows how inclusive environmental education might plant long-term seeds of su

stainability in students who are tasked with becoming good stewards of the environment. The AR shows how environmental education enhances immigrant young people’s own development and power to lead their peers, teachers and parents into action and change. In the article fifteen children worked on a landscaping project by collaborating with the researchers and teachers. In voicing opinions, the children felt ownership and enthusiasm.

The harvest was plenty this day; unearthing sweet potatoes is quite satisfying!

Meaningful participation of children in a school setting provides opportunities for children to discover and act upon their emerging global concerns, and act to care for the environment. The AR project shows engagement and inclusive learning between the students and teachers, which offers the students a venue to contribute based on mutual learning and focused purpose. Traditionally, schools view students as passive recipients of knowledge as if the students’ own creative power and voice may prevent learning. This project allowed students to take an active role which then becomes transformative education for everyone involved in

the process. For example, students can prepare the soil in their school project accordingly to avoid the causes and the effects of soil erosion. The possibility of a seed is endless which makes my fascination with the process on going. The San Antonio Community Garden and Food Bank is a wonderful service to many.

Although the AR project provided an inclusive platform for learning and action for the researcher, the teachers, and the students, there were limitations. Time constraints may have prevented students from self-reflection and participation in a more active manner (rather than being overly guided by the teacher’s input). For example, students could have kept a reflective journal and prepared for an overall presentation that would explain their connection with the project and how they might go forward with those lessons learned. What might have emerged if students were given additional time to reflect on their active role in the project or be given time to collaborate with one another on potential projects? Reflection is an opportune time for students to consider further application and association. What else might we have learned about the immigrant students’ ways of knowing, integration, and stewardship if not for this time constraint?As an educator, I know when students find relevancy in their assignment, and when they are active participants; the lessons come alive and become meaningful. This is in line with Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development and constructionism, which is supportive of the students putting their hand to the task and using fertile ground as diverse ways of knowing. The immigrant student planting the seed of inclusion in her new-found environment while serving her new community is brilliant.

Debbie Ann Quiñones is an educator, activist, student of life.