How We Teach While We Learn?

Posted August 2, 2021

Not all experiments start just as planned and they do not even continue parallel with the plans. The urban farming experiment of AccLab Turkey which started with research on food security and evolved into an urban garden project is a great example of how AccLab works through exploration to experimentation. The figure below shows the journey of our research and the ideas behind this journey:

Relying on what we have learned during the experiment on ownership of the spaces to turn into urban gardens, on community establishment, and the effect of climate on urban farming practices, helped us to showcase forming an urban garden and the community around it. 

The pandemic impeded our initial plan since the urban garden is located inside a school and students were not around due to restrictions. So, we decided to experiment with a learning and practice area in the garden of the school.

Thanks to the small-scale eco-friendly production we started in the garden, we had our first harvest and prepared our raised beds for the next season. The crops planted in the previous season have made the soil noticeably more fertile than it was before. For the new planting process, we had to prepare the soil.

The selection of seeds and seedlings is one of the most important factors in agricultural production. When choosing seeds, we selected the ones that were not hybrids, and the seedlings came from heirloom seeds and were grown in a non-toxic way. We planted tomato, pepper, eggplant, lettuce, and zucchini seedlings. In addition, we planted calendula and marigold especially among our tomato seedlings. This is one of the nature-friendly agricultural techniques under the name of 'sister plants' which protects vegetable seedlings by attracting insects due to their colour and smell.

Relying on what we have learned during the experiment on ownership of the spaces to turn into urban gardens, on community establishment, and the effect of climate on urban farming practices, helped us to showcase forming an urban garden and the community around it. 

The pandemic impeded our initial plan since the urban garden is located inside a school and students were not around due to restrictions. So, we decided to experiment with a learning and practice area in the garden of the school.

Thanks to the small-scale eco-friendly production we started in the garden, we had our first harvest and prepared our raised beds for the next season. The crops planted in the previous season have made the soil noticeably more fertile than it was before. For the new planting process, we had to prepare the soil.

The selection of seeds and seedlings is one of the most important factors in agricultural production. When choosing seeds, we selected the ones that were not hybrids, and the seedlings came from heirloom seeds and were grown in a non-toxic way. We planted tomato, pepper, eggplant, lettuce, and zucchini seedlings. In addition, we planted calendula and marigold especially among our tomato seedlings. This is one of the nature-friendly agricultural techniques under the name of 'sister plants' which protects vegetable seedlings by attracting insects due to their colour and smell.

Relying on what we have learned during the experiment on ownership of the spaces to turn into urban gardens, on community establishment, and the effect of climate on urban farming practices, helped us to showcase forming an urban garden and the community around it. 

The pandemic impeded our initial plan since the urban garden is located inside a school and students were not around due to restrictions. So, we decided to experiment with a learning and practice area in the garden of the school.

Thanks to the small-scale eco-friendly production we started in the garden, we had our first harvest and prepared our raised beds for the next season. The crops planted in the previous season have made the soil noticeably more fertile than it was before. For the new planting process, we had to prepare the soil.

The selection of seeds and seedlings is one of the most important factors in agricultural production. When choosing seeds, we selected the ones that were not hybrids, and the seedlings came from heirloom seeds and were grown in a non-toxic way. We planted tomato, pepper, eggplant, lettuce, and zucchini seedlings. In addition, we planted calendula and marigold especially among our tomato seedlings. This is one of the nature-friendly agricultural techniques under the name of 'sister plants' which protects vegetable seedlings by attracting insects due to their colour and smell.



Even the training content and its implementation are part of the experiment.We will be able to assess the willingness and ownership of the students, and we can see results during and after the program. 

The beauty of this experiment is also its capacity to be scaled out and scaled deep. The foundation which built the school owns others in different cities. In parallel, a private school chain approached AccLab, and I, as the Head of Experimentation gave a presentation on zero waste and sustainability with the participation of more than 200 students from 3 different provinces. The school chain is also waiting for the training content to use in their schools. Once the training content is tested in one school, there is a great potential to disseminate it to other volunteer schools, and then to present it  to the Ministry of Education.

The demonstration site and the community we engaged have a direct linkage with another experiment we are working on in the same city. When we link the composting experiment with the urban farming practice, this will increase the number of households producing at least a part of their food, and decrease the amount of organic waste produced in selected neighbourhoods.

Despite the fact that we learned a lot from our experiment and that we continue to learn, some new questions raised from this work include:

1.     How can we encourage urban communities to grow their crops in their gardens, terraces, or balconies? 

2.     Can individuals learn to be more responsible consumers through experiencing food production on their own, starting from childhood?

3.     Can school children be agents of change in terms of changing the perceptions and behaviours of their families?

All of these questions can be answered with other experiments but the anchor point for scaling or replication has been proven, urban agriculture in schools can be used to promote sustainable food production and thus, contribute towards the SDGs.

Photos by Merve Peker