Monday, August 25, 2014

studio set up

The studio environment has been prepared with research questions in mind.  Nature is evident throughout and the space is ready to welcome the children.
During the first week of school the studio is closed as children acclimate to their classrooms, but next week I will be back with some of my favorite people in Denver...exploring, creating and learning together.
Stay tuned for more in the weeks and months ahead!

Friday, August 15, 2014

More research to share

I recently encountered an interesting article by Lyubomirsky (click here for full article) regarding the human propensity for adaptation to both positive and negative experiences.  Research suggests that wellbeing relies on thwarting our adaptation inclination to positive experiences, allowing for more enticing encounters with the present moment.
According to Lyubomirsky there are several key elements that can thwart adaptation to positive experience and increase well-being.  These are as follows:

  • Attention enticing: when something no longer captivates our attention we have become habituated to the stimuli.  What we attend to, on the other hand, becomes our experience and increases all the accompanying neurochemicals relating to that experience.
  • Dynamic and varied activity: Humans attend to what is unpredictable and unexpected. Well being increases with continued engagement with positive experience.
  • Novel and surprising: We are programmed for novelty.  An experience of not-understanding actually thwarts our tendency to adapt better than understanding ever could.

As a teacher engaged in research involving children, creative expression and nature, I am excited by the possibilities implied in this article.  Depth engagement with the natural world has the potential to forestall adaptation across experiential domains.   Nature is dynamic, varied, novel and surprising.  We have become habituated to it, like a background that we no longer attend to, so the question becomes how to we reengage?  Creative expression and observation have the potential to focus attention on nature in meaningful ways that bypass our cultural habituation to the natural world.  Thus increasing  wellbeing and interconnectedness.
This research reminds me that quality teaching must involve attention enticing experiences which are dynamic, varied, novel and surprising.  Thus the goal of education is not necessarily to understand, but to fall in love with the process of learning, wondering, observing, attending and mindful engagement with the NOW.  Paulo Freire writes, "Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferals of information.” Exciting!!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Some things to consider

In researching this topic I have encountered a number of interesting theorists and studies.  Lee (2012) suggests that children have a basic developmental orientation toward nature, further suggesting that theoretical models of child development have focused on sociocultural perspectives and could therefore benefit from the addition of a nature orientation.  Kahn, Severson and Ruckert (2009) have provided research that underscores the benefits of experiences with actual nature to human wholeness and “what counts as a full measure of human experience and human flourishing” (p. 37). Researchers studying the lives of environmentalists discovered they all had childhood experiences in wild places which may have supported their development of ecological values, in fact many of them contributed their commitment to a combination of “many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for 
nature." (Sobel, 2008, p. 9)  It is an exciting field of inquiry with much to learn on all sides.

If you know of some interesting research to add to the discussion, please post a link to extend the conversation.

Kahn, P., Severson, R. & Ruckert, J. (2009). The human relation with nature and   technological   nature. Association for Psychological Science, 18(1). 37-42.
Lee, P. C. (2012). The human child’s nature orientation.  Child Development Perspectives, 6 (2). 193-198.
Sobel, D. (2008). Childhood and nature: Design principles for educators. Portland, MA: Stenhouse.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Re-invisioning professional development together

Often when we think of professional development we think of classes that are taught by informed others, disseminating knowledge to a receptive audience.  
I want to challenge that assumption.  
All of us... children, parents, families, teachers, administrators, community members... contribute to the evolution of our understandings about education, nature, childhood and so much more.  
When we extend a hand in welcome toward one another, regardless of our training, age or specialization, we expand the possibilities for our own understanding. Freire (1998) wrote, "To teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge.” (p. 30) Together we can construct a deeper understanding of education, nature and childhood.
A colleague recently shared these questions after reviewing some of my current writings on nature and children:
What is the culture (or cultures) of nature in our society, and how does it impact the children with whom we work?  
Further, How do we as teachers tap into the children’s perspectives around nature, not only valuing them, but inviting them to impact our own perspectives as educators and as stewards of the natural world?
Please feel free to add your own thoughts here or jot them down to share at our upcoming all school dialog:
September 11, 2014 5:30-7:00 at Children's Garden Montessori School 444 Detroit St. Denver, CO, 80206.

Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of the Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham: MD.