Tag Archives: change

Learning environment

 

gardeningIn last week’s post I shared information about research projects students could become involved in to be scientists in real life. Some of the projects such as Project BudBurst and BudBurst Buddies encourage junior scientists to observe and record changes in plants throughout the changing seasons. Many commenting on the post agreed that projects such as these would make the learning of science come alive. Pauline King the Contented Crafter even commented that she may have to reconsider her opinion of schools if children were involved in projects such as these.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Shortly after posting I read an article on Co.Exist describing a preschool that doubles as urban farm where Kids learn among the plants and animals in this design for a radically different education environment.”  A bit like my concept of an early learning caravan, the school does not actually exist. The design was entered into and won an architecture competition. It is an interesting concept and I especially like the suggestion that children spend more time learning about nature through experiencing it in wild spaces in the outdoors rather than only through classroom activities and books, both of which do have their role.

Jeannie Baker - planet changing

I have previously shared the wonderful books of Jeannie Baker which have strong environmental themes encouraging children to care for nature and appreciate the natural wonders and beauty of the world around them.

2015-09-19 11.09.45 2015-09-19 11.11.04

This morning, thanks to a recommendation from Sarah Brentyn who blogs at Lemon Shark, I received another lovely book in the post that will sit among my favourites. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown tells the story of how a curious boy helps transform a city from a drab grey concrete jungle to a one filled with gardens and gardeners. The story affirms the belief that the actions of one person can make a difference.

Never-doubt-that-a-small - Margaret Mead

I am currently listening to Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect, an interesting and thought-provoking book by environmentalist David W. Orr who challenges the focus of schools and advocates for learning outdoors in the natural environment. He may approve of the preschool farm, but he’d probably be more in favour of a forest preschool.

This, however, is only a small part of his position and I do not wish to misrepresent it. In an article, which reads like a chapter from the book, Orr describes “Six myths about the foundations of modern education, and six new principles to replace them”. The part of me that strives towards meliorism is seriously challenged by the picture Orr paints. The picture books, stories, and research projects are fine; but there’s much more to be done if we want to do more than simply wish for a greener future.

I agree with Orr wholeheartedly that education for, with and through the environment is essential; and that many of our problems are caused by miseducation. However, I had not thought about education in the way that Orr explains. I think I’ll be sharing more of his work in future posts.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

Once upon a time … the power of story

 

Alan Rickman

In stories we find our hopes, our dreams, our inspirations, and our fears.  In stories our imaginations take flight as we contemplate ideas never before encountered.  Stories help us figure out the world and our place in it. We come to understand the stories of others and develop compassion and empathy. We find ways of confronting our fears in safety. We escape the ordinariness of the everyday with dreams as much of the impossible as the possible.

The love of reading is gift

Stories can be shared orally, in print, or through a variety of media. All are valid and valuable sources, but sharing the stories presented in books is especially important to the development of young children, and anything that can put books into the hearts and hands of children is to be encouraged. The ability to read is empowering and the love of books is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. Not only can reading change the life of an individual, it can improve the lives of many through education.

This week I read a post by Paul Thomas  on his blog the becoming radical. In this post, entitled “Please—a little less love, and a little more common decency. Paul said,

“If we cannot change the world (and I suspect we can’t), we can provide all children the sorts of environments all children deserve in their school day—environments of kindness, compassion, safety, and challenges.”

I think Paul meant that we can’t change the whole world, that would be a rather daunting task, but the provisions mentioned are vital and change the lives of individuals in important ways, just as reading does. I like to think of changing the world with one thought, one word, one action at a time, or as Mem Fox says, also quoted in my post The magic effect – why children need books,

“. . . let’s get on and change the world, one page at a time.”

malala

Another post I read this week was by Michelle Eastman Calling all Book Lovers and Authors to make a Difference to a Child in Need on her blog Michelle Eastman’s Books. In that post Michelle explains that, last year, she initiated a project “MARCHing books to Kids”. The purpose of this project is to raise awareness of and provide books for children of incarcerated parents. Michelle goes on to say,

“I believe that every child’s Bill of Rights should be indelibly inked with the right to have picture books read to him/her and to own their very own books. “

I agree with her of course and consider her project to be very worthwhile. It reminds me of another very worthwhile program mentioned by Caroline Lodge, who blogs at Book Word, about providing books to prisoners. Both of these projects have the ability to change lives, to empower people and by so doing, change the world, not only their world.

As well as changing lives, stories influence our attitudes. If they encourage feelings of kindness and compassion, as Paul Thomas says, that may be a good thing.  But what of the stereotypes that seem so pervasive? How many stories have you read about princesses in dire circumstances waiting to be rescued by handsome princes or knights in shining armour who must slay a dragon in doing so? What effect do these stories have upon the developing self-image of a young girl or boy? It is important to teach children to think critically about the stories they read, and about the portrayal of characters and their attitudes, especially stereotypes.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

But that is in reading stories. What of writing stories? Writing stories, whether factual accounts or imagined events, is also empowering. In writing stories children, and adults, can express and explore their hopes, dreams, inspirations, and fears.  In writing stories their imaginations take flight as they contemplate ideas never before encountered.  Writing stories helps us figure out the world and our place in it.

In her post Storytelling as Personal Metaphor Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal raised the question of how much of the self is revealed in fiction.

Paula Reed Nancarrow, whose blog tagline is Essays, Stories, Ephemera, talked about working towards an understanding of contentment: what it is and how it is experienced; in her post Enough Already: Exploring the Art of Contentment,

Contentment is something that I too wonder about, and am especially perplexed by the need to push myself into new territory and new learning when others are content to sit back and watch the clouds pass by. Why are there so many things I feel I must do? Pretty soon I’ll be gone and it won’t matter a hoot. I have sometimes thought that if I were to write a fictionalised account of my life I would begin with the words She was an unremarkable woman”.

I have connected these thoughts: about the power of story to change lives, the revelation of self in fiction and the quest for contentment; to write my response to the one who initiated my thinking about stories this week, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications with her flash fiction challenge to in 99 words (no more, no less) begin a story with, “Once upon a time …”  I’d love to know what you think.

Contentment

Once upon a time there was an ordinary girl who lived an ordinary life with her ordinary family. She did all the ordinary things that others did and dreamed of nothing else. Each day followed one after the other with little difference. There was no magic. There were no fairies, and there were no dragons to slay. She just did what she had to do and took little notice of others doing the same. Strangely enough she was content for, from somewhere deep within, she knew that this ordinary life was but preparation for the extraordinariness of the next.

Monarch butterfly

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Can you make a difference?

My previous post How much of a meliorist are you? attracted many comments and much lively discussion, including comparisons of seemingly pessimistic or optimistic views of the future and the validity of each.

This discussion surprised me as my intention in writing the post was not to delve into the damage that we humans have wreaked upon the world, but simply to express my belief that we humans, should we desire to do so, have the power to improve the world. We may not be able to change everything we would like to see changed, but we can make a start within our own circle of influence.

Few-will-have-the - Robert F. Kennedy

Or, in the words of Michael Jackson, one can “Look in the mirror and make a change!”

My chosen avenue for making a difference is education; through maintaining my own interest in learning, through attempts to keep alive a love of learning and a curiosity about our world and others, and through improving learning opportunities for others throughout their lives beginning at birth (or earlier!).

The contribution each of us makes is unique and reflects our own values and life choices. I am grateful to others who help me grow in my understanding of what motivates and drives us, what excites our imaginations and stimulates our curiosity, and what propels us towards choices for improving our individual and combined futures.

Its-the-action-not-the - Mahatma Gandhi

Among those who encourage my learning and stretch my thinking are you, my wonderful readers, who selflessly contribute thoughts and ideas to extend my understanding. To you all, my teachers, I express my great gratitude.

Thank you

While I may often fall short of the mark and need to make frequent reminders to myself, these are just a few ways I try to make my little spot in the world a better place:

Smiling

Being friendly towards those I engage with throughout the day

Being polite

Being kind, sometimes randomly and anonymously without requiring thanks

Listening attentively, to understand and without interrupting or interjecting

Accepting graciously and without whingeing and whining

Finding humour in situations which enable me to laugh, especially at myself

Changing behaviours to reduce my impact on the environment

Seeking ways to ease the burdens of others

Accepting and encouraging others to be themselves

Recognising and accepting my ‘mistakes’ and shortcomings, and those of others

What about you? What do you do to make your little spot in the world a better place? Please share your ideas so we can all learn from your example.

At times in my life I have been told that I take life too seriously. At other times I have been told that I don’t take it seriously enough. I think life should be about enjoyment and fun, so I’m going to turn the seriousness of this post on its head and leave you with another quote, this time by A.H. Weiler:

“Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.”

I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts and ideas about any aspect of this post, whether you agree with me or not!

Sounds like . . .

Kookaburra in my backyard

Kookaburra in my backyard

The flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week is all about sounds, specifically a sound that heralds change.

Of course I think immediately of the school sounds: the bells, buzzers or sirens that mark the beginning or end of a school session or day; children’s laughter in the playground interrupted by the cry over a scraped knee or elbow; the hush that overtakes the classroom when the teacher’s footsteps in the corridor announce her arrival; the monotonous chant of sounds parroted repeatedly as cards of letters are flashed in unrelenting sequence, marking the imposition of content-driven curricula where once were child-centred approaches and talk was king.

I think, too, of the sounds of nature that tell me of the changes in the day: the birds that sing outside my window heralding each new day – the kookaburras, butcherbirds, magpies, little corellas and koels; the rainbow lorikeets that chatter noisily telling me that evening is on its way; the screeching and whooshing of fruit bats as they wing their way across the darkening sky; the thud of a possum landing on the fence and the scratching of its claws as its scrambles from tree to tree under cover of the night.

Cockatoos looking for food, Hamilton Island

Cockatoos looking for food, Hamilton Island

We are fortunate in Australia that we don’t have a great number of large menacing animals terrorising our neighbourhoods. Sure dingoes, crocodiles and sharks may be scary but you don’t often come across them, and our most dangerous animals are more likely to be small and quiet and sneak up on you, like our spiders, snakes, jellyfish and ticks. There are no sounds associated with these to give you a warning.

That’s not to say there are no scary sounding animals. Any sound, if you don’t know what is making it, has the potential to be scary; as in this 99-word flash (memoir):

Awakened suddenly, I didn’t dare breathe. The sound was unrecognizable: guttural, movie theatre loud in surround sound. I sat up. The sound continued. I wasn’t dreaming.  I nudged Bob. No response. Gripped with fear but needing to know, I tiptoed to the window and peeked through the curtain slit. I expected to see The Creature from the Black Lagoon. There was nothing. Now it came from the front, inside the house? My son! I tore down the hall. He slept peacefully! Back to the bedroom. Bob awoke. “Did you hear that?” he asked, wide eyes staring . . .

The following day I phoned the Queensland museum and attempted to explain what I heard. The fellow at the other end of the phone mimicked the sound exactly!! He identified it as a male brushtail possum warning others of its territory. These possums are very common in our area and I was amazed that I hadn’t heard this particular sound before. I hear it frequently now as every night they are moving about in the neighbourhood trees and running along our fences and roofs. I have never again heard it at the intensity of that first time, and now that I know what it is, it is no longer scary. In fact, possums are rather cute, as long as they are not living in your roof, eating the produce of your garden or stealing your Christmas puddings!

This video gives a hint of the brush tail’s sound I heard:

Another sound that I found quite unnerving at the time of first hearing was that of the mutton birds in the still of the night while we were holidaying on Heron Island, just off the Queensland coast at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. I had always thought the cry of the curlew to be quite eerie, but it didn’t match that of the mutton birds whose cry was more like that of the banshees.

I have written about this frightening experience in the following 99-word flash (memoir):

The boat tossed mercilessly. I battled to contain my insides while all around were losing theirs into little paper bags offered unceremoniously to obliging staff.

Finally, just before landfall, I joined in. Then it was over – for me. Bob’s queasiness laid him up for the night; but I went to tea.

The path back to the cabin was unlit but for a splash of moonlight. Suddenly horrific wailing assaulted my ears. Was Bob being murdered? I hurried back. He was fine, but the eerie sound unsettled us far into the night.

In the morning we laughed: mutton birds nesting!

I was fortunate to have not tripped and fallen as the mutton birds nest in burrows and these were dotted all over the island! Of course, once the source of the sound had been identified, we were no longer concerned.

While my two snippets of memoir don’t fit Charli’s criterion of fiction, they are about sound and I have used them to point to the power of education to change one’s situation. When the source of the sound was unknown, it was frightening. Once we knew what it was, it was no longer scary.

Knowledge is power. There is a saying, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you” but there is also another that says “What you don’t know won’t do you much good either”. I have written about this previously here.

Conspiracy theorists believe that those with power withhold knowledge from the masses (e.g. aliens are among us); but I believe that schools that favour test marks over individual development; content over creativity and critical thinking; and conformity over diversity are conspiring to contain the masses. One of the easiest ways to suppress and maintain control over others is to keep them ignorant. I am not suggesting that schools keep students ignorant, but they could do a lot more to maintain children’s natural enthusiasm for learning. I look forward to sounds that will herald positive changes in education.

 

I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.