Maria del Carmen Farquharson’s Story
2022 Co-Winner of Natural Curiosity’s Dr. David Suzuki Award for Excellence in Pre-Service Environmental Education
Maria grew up in Peru, her native land, during times of change and violence. Her parents came from the mountains, but she was born in the city of Lima. Maria remembers visiting her grandparent’s home in the mountains and looking at the deep blue sky. She liked to help dig potatoes out of the ground and gather capulis (Goose berries) from her grandmother’s garden. Maria felt loved by the land. Years later, when she moved to Canada, Maria wished to continue teaching as she did in South America, but without credentials, she had to start over again. Maria missed the connection with the land that she used to have in Peru, but soon she found this land also has the healing power that she missed.
Maria’s motivation to apply for this award came from reading Natural Curiosity during her first semester at the Waaban Indigenous Teacher Education program. She is a Quechua Indigenous woman with years of experience as an educator. As most Indigenous people around the world, Maria’s people lost much of their culture due to colonization, and now it is her goal to reclaim it. Indigenous pedagogy is based on the land, and that is why she wants to learn more about outdoor experiential learning. As an Indigenous educator, Maria feels responsible to help the next generations to develop a relationship with the land and build a better future for our relatives of all colours.
When Maria was an educator, gardening was an integral part of learning. The students oversaw their small vegetable plot, gained responsibility, learned about beneficial insects, and how to choose companion plants to protect and support each other. They prepared their compost and saw how what they discard can become their next meal by using it to enrich the land. Children could learn how small decisions can make a difference and see results. Maria’s class garden was a small example of the renewing power of nature, and she believes that children learn better when they are engaged in discovery. Maria admitted to her students that she did not have all the answers, and this showed them that she was also learning alongside them, which she thinks is a good starting point to their relationship. We do not have all the answers, but we can inquire, observe, and discover together. Her students were more engaged when they could choose what to learn and how to show what they knew: make a poster, write an essay, or represent your knowledge through enacting the life of one of the important figures of the time-period studied.
Maria states that in a Western world view we assume that we have a right to use lands, seas, animals, hills, and minerals, for our own advantage and this attitude is detrimental to the environment. However, Maria shares that Indigenous wisdom says that we have a responsibility of relationship with land because we are part of the environment, and our wellness is dependent on our relationship with the land. She urges that we must project the effects of our actions into the future, into the proverbial seventh generation. How is it going to affect our descendants 200 years from now?
That is why Maria would like to learn more about experiential learning in the outdoors. She wants to be confident to take her students outside, discover, and learn together. Through her practicum experience here in Canada, she has noticed that there are limited opportunities for outdoor learning. Maria would like to be ready to bring this innovation into her classroom. According to Sobel (2008) “Authentic environmental and social commitment emerges out of first-hand experiences with real places.” (as cited in Anderson et al., 2013, p. 66).
Maria has three main goals as a teacher candidate: learn about the inquiry approach, about the land as a teacher, and about the community where she would teach. Through her Pedagogy of the Land course, she has started to learn how to deepen her relationship with the land. Maria would like to expand her learning. She feels that if her students can develop an attitude of thankfulness and connection with the land from a young age, they would become responsible beings that care for Mother Earth.
Maria believes that the path to reconciliation that we are looking for in Canada is linked to our relationship with the land. We cannot have reconciliation if we continue to pollute and destroy the land. Only when we start walking on Mother Earth as we would walk on our own mother can we work together to build a better future for us all.