“We have developed a version of [education] in which it is assumed, without anyone ever quite saying as much, that learning is an indoor sport taking place exclusively in classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and computer labs and that practical competence is to be avoided at all cost”, David Orr, Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect, Island Press, 1994.
UNSW Urban Growers is a cross-faculty working group of staff and students dedicated to changing this traditional approach to education by creating food growing space on UNSW campuses. The group includes staff from Law, Built Environment, Public Health and Community Medicine, Engineering, BEES, Environment and Society/FASS, Arc, Art and Design, UNSW Well Being and Estate Management.
Food growing space on UNSW campuses serves multiple purposes:
Teaching: food growing is incorporated into a number of courses at UNSW already, and could be adopted in many more. Students in the Law School plant vegetables in the Law School courtyards as part of their research on urban agriculture, intellectual property and food security in People, Land and Community LAWS3115/JURD7515 and Food Law LAWS3216/JURD7716. In the School of BEES, plants for practical classes are regularly grown in the glasshouse and/or purchased at the shops, but the students would likely have a stronger connection to their subject material if they had helped to grow it on campus. Students from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine could learn about concepts related to public health nutrition, food security, obesity and chronic disease prevention and management.
Research: multiple staff conduct food-related research which requires growing space. Staff in WaterGUM research the ways in which plants, including edibles, can be used to clean stormwater and wastewater in cities. Staff in the Built Environment explore the planning, design and ecosystem services aspects of food growing, to inform our understanding of and capacity to positively intervene in our rapidly growing and densifying cities.
Well-Being: Contact with nature is tied to improvements in both physical and psychological health, boosting the immune system and having a beneficial impact on long-term health. Exercise and outdoor activity in a group participation setting also creates the opportunity for social connection and its associated benefits to staff and student wellbeing.
Greening: keeping our urban environment green is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. Plants can counteract urban heat islands, reduce energy costs, clean air and increase resident health. In dense urban environments like UNSW, land pressure requires us to be innovative, growing plants in between, inside and on buildings.
The first growing space created by UNSW Urban Growers is a Teaching and Research Garden, located on the north east corner of the Barker St Car Park. The garden was funded by the Scientia Education Academy and the Grand Challenge on Rapid Urbanisation.
There are seven raised beds that will be available to staff and students for research and teaching from 2020. More garden spaces at UNSW will be made available soon.
Launch and planting details:
North east corner of the Barker St Car Park