The Mustard Seed – SEEDschool

The Cause

In 2017, The Mustard Seed partnered with Campus Calgary Open Minds to initiate a pilot program for SEEDschool – a week-long experiential learning program allowing children grades three and up to immerse themselves into the issues of poverty and homelessness. These children are brought to our facilities in order to gain a first-hand knowledge on those experiencing poverty and homelessness in the City of Calgary.

The goal of this program is to immerse future community members into an environment that is sensitive to vulnerable populations. Exposing children to these societal issues early allows them to approach their life with more compassion in the future. The ideal outcome of this program is that future generations obtain a more robust understanding of the complexity of poverty and homelessness in their community.

At SEEDschool, both teachers and students are immersed in workshops, experiential learning, and service-learning. These experiences develop and build capacity for critical understandings of our interconnected Calgary community. Each week of SEEDschool is uniquely designed around a central inquiry question, catered to student and teacher interest in activities and opportunities to build connections to the work of The Mustard Seed and surrounding community. The Mustard Seed’s community of clients with lived experience, dedicated staff, and rich volunteer and donor connections provide potential learning opportunities that align with the central question of the study. Examples of these opportunities include:
• Healthy communities
• Diversity and worldviews
• Stories of strength and resiliency
• What it means to be an engaged community member and citizen
• Stigma and stereotypes
• Mental health
• Charity versus Justice

The Mustard Seed is one of the only social service organizations worldwide that provides this immersive experiential learning opportunity. With limited experiential learning programs across the world (seven cities in North America and one in Singapore), most of these programs expose children to experiences such as City Hall, Stampede, Calgary Zoo, Glenbow Museum, and the YMCA. SEEDschool’s focus on social issues and engaged citizenship through a social service agency makes it the first of its kind in this global network.

Who Will it Benefit?

In the short-term, SEEDschool will expose students to the realities of poverty and homelessness in their city. What this initiative hopes to achieve is to inspire the long-term development of youth by providing a unique perspective on poverty and homelessness and educating them on the social services sector. We hope to create a more compassionate and understanding generation that can work together to help develop meaningful solutions to chronic poverty.

A week at The Mustard Seed is a catalyst for students to become engaged in the creation of their own year-long learning pathway. By incorporating student choice and design, teachers and site experts act as facilitators working collaboratively with students. By grounding education in the local community, students can see the relevance of what they are learning and therefore become more engaged in the learning process.

Research demonstrates that collaboration improves a student’s academic achievement and increases interest in their community, satisfaction amongst teachers increases, and community members become more connected to the students. Visiting The Mustard Seed engages students in hands-on learning about poverty, homelessness and social issues and challenges students to consider their role in engaging community.

An opportunity to receive funding through the Field Law Community Fund Program would allow approximately 50 students to spend a week engaging with the community, making connections, and hearing from experts on the context of poverty and homelessness in Calgary.