Learning is a constant and unchanging curve of life, whether intentional or not, it’s a constant factor of the human condition. We watch, we learn, we do, we learn- after a while it becomes routine. Some learning is a product of your environment and sometimes it can be a refined university education. It’s something that fascinates me. To my delight I was invited to spend the afternoon at the Exeter CVS centre to talk to some students doing a National Open College Network course, a certificate for progression, level 2. I chatted to students about what they’re doing, how they’re learning and what they think about it. The course combines practical and classroom learning, from self development to horticulture.
What I liked most about the qualification is what it stands for; anyone from any background is welcome to apply, the classes are small and the teaching is friendly. It doesn’t matter if you’re an academic genius or more of a kinesthetic learner (or both for that matter). It’s a combination of practical and classroom based learning with an aim to increase individual skills, motivation and future prospects. The course work book allows for personal reflection on each module and an opportunity to improve self assessment skills.
When I asked the group why they applied for a place on the course some seemed a bit skeptical of me while I sat in front of them with my note pad and pen. I wondered what they were thinking… who is this guy? The silence was broken and my mind was changed- what a confident group of individuals I thought. ‘It sounded interesting’ someone offered from the back, ‘to reconnect with nature’ someone else said nearer the front.
Gardening and horticulture are two things I’m pretty clueless about and some of these students had been before they started this course. What are you hoping to get out of your time studying?, I asked. ‘A basic understanding of how gardening and ourselves work. To learn about both sides of things’ a student said sitting opposite me. ‘Different situations affect people differently, I don’t feel alone’.
Every other Tuesday offers the opportunity for students to work hands on at a local farm. The activities are varied and the group are invited on field trips when possible, they have even been down to the Eden project in Cornwall. What else do they learn I asked; Organic principles and methods, pest control and diseases, nutrients, plant maintenance, protecting crops and self-awareness were just a few of the examples I was given.
All six of the current students I interviewed have now completed and passed the course and have the opportunity to continue studying.