The 2018 Bristol Food Connections festival, taking place from 11th – 17th June, includes over 120 events and activities in all corners of Bristol. This celebration of the varied and delicious food culture in the city, is based around the theme of ‘time’, with restaurants, businesses and communities making space in their day to share and enjoy food together. A wide range of family events, talks and workshops will take place throughout the week, and the SFT will be getting involved too.

On the eve of the BBC’s Food and Farming Awards, the SFT’s director Patrick Holden, last year’s winner of the Derek Cooper Outstanding Achievement Award, will be discussing the future of education in conversation with Head Teacher Richard Dunne of Ashley CofE primary school in Walton-on-Thames. Their mutual cross-examination will explore how working with food in schools can transform learning; and why the future of food depends on a more integrated and interconnected approach to learning, so that the food producers of the future become stewards of human and planetary health.

Against a backdrop of a heavily assessment-driven education system, and within a culture of over-consumption and exploitation of scarce resources, Richard Dunne believes it’s time to reconnect young people with nature – to bring real purpose to what they learn and how they understand the world. Inspired by the Prince of Wales’s book, Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, Richard has put sustainability and nature at the heart of the curriculum at his school, pioneering an ‘enquiry approach’ to learning based on the seven principles of Harmony. This approach, Richard explains, has enabled the children at his school to start to see the world differently, understanding how natural systems work in never-ending cycles and interdependent relationships. What’s more, this approach to learning is developing a range of other skills in them, including improving their fine motor skills through weekly geometry sessions, paying attention to detail and becoming more mindful and able to better concentrate. Above all, they are developing a confidence in expressing their understanding of how the world works, how they are an integral part of it and how they can align their practices to enable them to live more harmoniously within it. Projects at the school have included setting up an organic vegetable garden, improving the energy efficiency of the school and overseeing the management of closed-loop recycling systems. Richard says, “Not surprisingly, the children love to learn in this way, and Ofsted like it too – for nearly 12 years we have achieved their ‘Outstanding’ rating.”

Richard works in partnership with the SFT on Harmony, Health and Education, and his work goes right to the heart of the SFT’s core educational purpose, as it tackles what we believe to be the primary root causes of the industrialisation and globalisation of food systems. These systems have had catastrophic impacts on the life support systems of the planet, based as they are on a reductionist mindset that has led humans to separate themselves from nature and to exploit it for their own gain. Now there is real potential to develop this work further and explore ways of integrating Harmony principles into education on a much broader scale, both nationally and internationally.

Patrick will discuss his belief that a reductionist mindset and the failure to think and work systemically is one of the most significant barriers to the practice of sustainable methods of food production. He will explore with Richard why this new approach to learning will fundamentally change how young people think – ultimately influencing how they tackle the global issues facing them in their adult lives. Patrick and Richard will discuss how food projects have been at the heart of this educational transformation, and why growing food is so vital to a child’s learning.

To hear Patrick and Richard’s exploration into the world of food, farming and education, head to the Triodos Bank Foundation Space, Deanery Road, BS1 5AS on Tuesday 12th June at 7:30pm. For tickets click here

Find out more on the Bristol Food Connections website: www.bristolfoodconnections.com and share how you’re taking part by using the hashtags #BFC2018 and #TimetoConnect.

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