Last night someone whose opinion I trust indicated to me that using the term “pedagogy” was really not going to fly for me. I think he was laughing at me for using that word to explain something to him.

Heck, I decided the same thing years ago. I don’t really believe in something called pedagogy. I think there is something called teaching and something called learning. We teach sometimes and we learn sometimes.

All of those years homeschooling/unschooling a houseful of kids and working with co-ops pretty much eliminated for me the whole idea of pedagogy as a viable process. Maybe it’s a convenience word for educators to use when talking to one another.


In a supportive environment, people learn if they are engaged with their work, if it makes sense to them, if they feel it is relevant to their lives, and if they feel they can actually do it. Right?

aaron and the drill_sm

Illich talked about the “educational church,” a dogmatic, transmissive mode of teaching and learning that so many of us sought to eliminate in our home environments.

We wanted to revise the architecture of pedagogy itself: creating a learning environment in homes, in learning centers that do not necessarily resemble modern Western schools. We wanted to develop a variety of enriching environments around any given community. I know I did. And I wanted to be within the natural world.


In sustainability education, I suspect most facilitators want to foreground direct experience of the natural world. Nature becomes teacher in theory and practice.

I have liked thinking about teaching and learning as an ecology for a long time, when my kids were all at home, before my grad school adventure. That’s one reason I liked calling the workshops at RSF “learning ecologies.”

outdoors 1_29_11

With a working agroecosystem at the center, I like to think we’re building a regenerative, enriching community environment.

Interactions that occur between human beings, their built environment, and nature on a small farm can help avoid splitting ecologies into “the human” and “the natural.” I think this is healthy for the humans and for the other-than-human world. We’re all in the matrix. We all are the matrix.


In “pedagogy” we become overly theoretical and our mind-body connection is ignored. We become all mind, no body. I think we learn better when we acknowledge the body as much as the mind in learning and when we become earth-based, even seasonally oriented with an organic punctuation. The mind-body connectivity is experienced.

Well. that's over.

Well. That’s over.

I am not convinced that it is possible to address education in terms of theory. I prefer to think we are generating recursive learning ecologies. Our work is process, it never actually ends and continually builds upon what came before.

If pressed to define the learning ecologies at Rainshadow Farm in academic terms, they might be called holistic community-based learning workshops that are collaborative, engaged, eco-justice learning situations, all deeply place-based. Okay? Not pedagogy.


In addition, these workshops are dynamic and seasonal. They emerge from the very context of the farm and the specific participants/learners present.


The ever-present hope is that they will become transformative to all concerned.

kath with desiree greenhouse_2

I was pretty much expected to go against my own grain and use the term pedagogy in my graduate school years. That’s okay because it was what it was.

What do we do at RSF? Community farm pedagogy. What do we really do? We learn together and we teach one another.

We can grow barley!

We can grow barley!

About rainshadowfarm

I teach anthropology, am an archaeologist, a drylands agroecologist, community educator, and a single mother of eight grown kids. I currently own and operate an educational and research farm in the southern Mojave Desert, Rainshadow Farm. I'm 100% West Virginia hillbilly. Not necessarily in that order.
This entry was posted in agroecology, community, education, family, Nature, sustainability education and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to pedagogy…

  1. I so wish my son Oliver could experience some of what you’re doing —

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