College classrooms are long overdue for an overhaul. As the next generation of students are bombarded with the most challenging questions of our time, including those of climate resilience, sustainable farming, and community development, universities need classrooms and curricula that inspire. Outdated lecture halls and the lack of engagement, discussion, and generative conflict in classes stands as an obstacle to creating new ways of thinking and being. It’s paramount that college classes represent the change, hope, and curiosity they aim to inspire in their students. This project bridges forefront research in transformative classroom practices with survey and interview data on gaps in the UMass Amherst campus community in skillful communication skills and in experiential hands-on social learning. The results propose a residential permaculture garden program as a solution to address these competency gaps. The components of this program include a research-supported outdoor curriculum in student-led facilitation, Nonviolent Communication (NVC), insight dialogue, Earth stewardship projects, circling, and mindfulness. The project seeks to propose a solution for the feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and pessimism that affect college students robbed of meaningful community and connection on their campuses. This is done through the medium of permaculture, a regenerative and holistic way of farming that engages communities and prioritizes “Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share” ethics and encourages “constructive hope”. This project aims to inspire the foundation of a new program at UMass Amherst and serve as a model for similar community and hope-strengthening projects at other colleges and universities in the United States.
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