Mitchell, Debra Nancy Bailey
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Pragmatist philosopher and cultural critic Cornel West sees American society as in a nihilistic state due to spiritual impoverishment. He relates this to deeply embedded issues of oppression in our society, such as racism and poverty, that have led to the breakdown of our communities, leaving youth with diminished will and power to face the imminent struggles of life. In short, America is in a state of crisis. The crisis takes many forms - race and poverty to West; environment education, and youth health to others - culminating into what West perceives as a widespread lack of love. Action gardening as a theory offers resolution to societal crisis through support of the claim that reciprocal relationships established in the garden can cultivate action for others, for example, by sharing harvested produce and the empowerment of good nutrition. In other words, experiences in the garden can provide understandings that guide choices for the future, work toward equity, and more importantly, establish bonds of community based in relationships of care and love. In addition, education research finds that gardening benefits youth in areas of health, attitude, community-building, and academic achievement. Through philosophical methodology, specifically through West’s lens of prophetic pragmatism extended with the ideas of others, action gardening adds spirituality to this list of benefits. While some students have opportunities for gardening experiences outside of school, for others, they are not possible. The place in which to reach children who may be missing these opportunities is public school. History shows that school gardening is not new. In fact, in the past decade, science education in the U.S. has experienced the emergence (or reemergence) of progressive approaches for teaching and learning science, including school gardening. Yet, incorporating gardening in a manner that enables more-than-novel experiences in nature is difficult within modern structures of schooling. Action gardening builds on history to provide support for the sociocultural dimension of science that gardening embodies. In addition it establishes fertile ground for youth action. In doing so, action gardening begins the healing of spiritual impoverishment and sows seeds of societal change.