In this essay, Dr. Cairns considers the implications of assessing garden pedagogies, arguing that a rhetoric of effects assumes an essentialist conception of the child-as-educational-output and bolsters a neoliberal vision of social change rooted in personal transformation. Drawing from ethnographic research with youth gardens in Toronto, Ontario, and Camden, New Jersey, she highlights contextualized experiences of learning and labor that exceed the boundaries of an effects framework. Cairns argues that garden pedagogies must be understood in relation to specific dynamics of racial, economic, and ecological injustice. The essay closes with reflections on how feminist theories of social reproduction might reimagine pedagogies of the garden in a way that attends to young people’s participation in life’s work.
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