Before a learning experience takes place, there is usually a period where a program and time-table of activities are created, with the intention to set a purpose and a framework to the future meeting.
When designing such a meeting program, it is easy to get carried away by a strong feeling that our time together should be “efficient”, and therefore we end up filling the whole agenda with structured activities around defined topics or questions. The reason why we do this, is that we feel the responsibility to produce desired or intended results. These “Structured Activities” are very useful and constructive ways to move forward in a defined line of work, and of course to achieve set goals; however, they can become overwhelming to some and quite often hinders the desired agency of participants in a partnership. By agency I refer to the capacity to act independently whilst openly sharing a common learning experience.
There is a growing acceptance in the lifelong learning agenda that we learn from each other by exchanging ideas, by engaging in practical work together as well as by emotionally supporting each other. The acknowledgement of the later two is becoming wide spread in the field of non-formal learning and slowly making its way into formal but alternative learning environments.
This is why, when the Future of Food Learning Partnership got together in November in Spain, we worked around a program that applied the learning principles of HEAD, HEART & HANDS in an attempt to create a Holistic Learning experience for all. Our intention was to compensate the time we spent talking, writing and presenting ideas with practical work growing, collecting and preparing food as well as feasting. We also intended to create space and time for personal feedback to the group in a well cared and ritualistic way, making sure that the needs, feelings and wishes of the group were present all the way through.
First we highlighted the three fields of learning H,H,H – by setting a color theme for the time-table, the fields became apparent in a natural flow of activities that blended with the day to day of the place. The overall expectation was not to give each field an equal time in the agenda, but to give it the right time and space, so that it felt authentic in itself and contributed positively to the healthy learning atmosphere of the group.
There are always changes until the last minute and its a great group exercise. This is the program we ended up with on the first day of the event:
HEAD in the program is represented as blue and a light-bulb. program presentation, structured conversations about products, roles, finances, fields of work and evaluations are some of sessions that need to be covered and fit into learning with the head.
HEART is represented as green and a heart icon. Everyday the official program starts with a group time to hear personal needs, summarize personal goals, sharing an inspirational reading and warm up from a different person every day. By caring for the morning circle and sharing lunch and dinner as a group FEAST The heart is cared for everyday, helping people to know each other. To make sure there is a specially cared and respected space a Council was held on the third day.
HANDS is represented by orange and a hand icon. Everyday the program included time to walk around the farm, forests and gardens identifying and collecting edible plants and food resources. Spontaneous, small and practical work groups were born with the objective of creating and documenting new stories and recipes with ingredients from the place and feasts co-designed by different countries.