Demonstrations and Hands-On Learning

Anything that is practical and requires some skills is best learned when seeing what other people have done or how they do it. We learn best when we see. When it comes to food, we may also add tasting, smelling and even touching. Food and the whole process of food production, from planting a garden to baking bread, speaks to all our senses. That's why it is so important to be able to directly demonstrate to people what the sustainable food is and how its production looks, how it is done.

There are a lot of skills that are involved in the process of producing sustainable foods, skills that have been mostly forgotten and are rapidly disappearing along with the people who possessed those skills. Reading the information that is available in books is helpful but it is not replacement for observing what other people do and learning from them. That is how it was always done in past generations, in all cultures around the world. Learning is even more effective if people are given a chance to apply the new skills and knowledge themselves, particularly when there is someone who may help them along with advice.

There will be strong emphasis on demonstration learning at the Centre. The vegetable garden and the berry and northern fruit orchard will present great opportunities to show different varieties of food that can be grown in our climate. The food served in the Centre will be the most powerful way to demonstrate principles and examples of sustainable foods. Every food served there will have a long story that can be told. If there are funds available to rebuild the existing ad-on building (the Sisters' old residence), it can become a small scale food processing facility committed to the demonstration of different sustainable food processing techniques. Also, demonstration of small scale sustainable farming can take place on the nearby Parkland Conservation Farm and on other local farms affiliated with the Centre.

Demonstration may mainly inspire and motivate people but learning new skills requires hands-on experience. The Centre will organize whatever learning courses are demanded, be it in gardening, planting and cultivation of fruit trees and berries, food storage for winter, etc. But much more demand can be for learning various new food processing, preserving and preparation methods and skills. However, such learning will be limited by the size of the facility. When the main new kitchen is used to prepare the meals for the Centre, the existing attached kitchen will be committed to provide such learning. It may allow groups up to 10 people at the time. If there is a high demand, various courses and demonstrations can be organized by the Centre personnel in some rented facilities in the City (Edmonton).

Acquiring new skills takes practice and to incorporate them in household routines needs practicing them at home. Hence comes the importance of the networks which will be growing, at least partially stimulated by operations and experience acquired at the Centre.