Growing Communities: Ethical dilemmas as a recipe for problem-solving | Harbord & Khan | 5 Min Read

Gardens can grow communities either at school, on your block, or someplace in your city. 

The skills and knowledge gathered by growing food and learning to cook are valuable in developing lifestyles that sustain us individually, culturally, and intergenerationally. We focused the unit we had developed on edible gardens around the human value ‘Wisdom’, in order to investigate indigenous and scientific knowledge and innovation.

Many families and communities developed edible gardens during lockdown, and schools have some excellent programs and strategies to connect students to living in more sustainable ways. Creating an edible garden will help grow your community and collaborations within the student body. We had repurposed the space outside our Design lab and grown tomatoes with our students. One of our parents kindly cooked us some spaghetti in tomato sauce for lunch!

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Liza Engelberg (LE) is the Director of Education, NYC Edible Schoolyard Program. Their goal is to provide edible education for every child in New York City. They partner with the city’s public schools “to cultivate healthy students and communities through hands-on cooking and gardening education, transforming children’s relationship with food”. 

How can ethical dilemmas guide students during their exploration of significant content? Below we have aligned the ethical dilemma with the Design Thinking Cycle (Stanford IDEO model) and extracts from Liza Engelberg’s interview. Our possible lines of inquiry can generate problem-solving opportunities for students.

Ethical Dilemma: 

When growing food, is it sustainable to only think of human interest or should we consider what benefits nature?

Ethical dilemma in action: “We talk about the costs of monoculture vs. the benefits of biodiversity. We talk about how bees and other pollinators are facing danger from pesticides. And we examine the injustices faced by workers at various levels of our food system.” – LE

At every stage the Design Thinking Cycle presents students with opportunities for problem-solving:

EMPATHIZE — An investigation of ethical dilemmas can reveal the emotional context, the human story behind the scenario. This can inspire empathy and support relationship-building. The germination of inquiry begins with compassion.

Ethical dilemma in action: “Everyone should have access to…

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Harbord and Khan

Meredith Harbord EdD and Sara Riaz Khan are global educators who use ethical dilemmas to enrich and transform curriculum. Their student centric approach is driven by an ethical model and innovative tools that support critical thinking and creativity. Meredith and Sara’s collaboration as Design teachers at ABA Oman International School in Muscat, focused on sustainability, ethical design and global mindedness and inspired them to establish Harbord & Khan Educational Consultants. They develop units of work based on real world issues to engage and challenge students for diverse curriculums (IB, PBL, Common Core and Australian) and are available for professional development and to create programs to meet the specific needs of your school. Meredith and Sara have authored two teacher curriculum books ‘Interdisciplinary Thinking for Schools: Ethical Dilemmas MYP 1, 2 & 3’ and ‘Interdisciplinary Thinking for Schools: Ethical Dilemmas MYP 4 & 5’ (2020). Website: