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Diving into marvellous worlds, and the power of expression
I caught this morning on the radio a snatch of conversation between an author and a painter.
They were extolling wonders of the world, and the delicacies of representing them in words and images; thinking of the fascination with edges, other-worlds, human experience and communication, 'thinking hands.' I heard a brief sentence or two, but it struck so many chords with how creative educators are striving to connect with children's imaginative worlds and 'hundred languages', and create worthwhile educational environments in which children can relish them.
It was such an inspiring lift: I discovered that the two were Robert Macfarlane and Norman Ackroyd (surprise and delight!)
"The landscape painter and print-maker Norman Ackroyd meets the writer Robert Macfarlane.
Norman, who celebrated his 80th birthday this year, invites Robert to his studio in Bermondsey, London. They discuss their fascination with wild landscapes and islands, and how they attempt to come to a deeper understanding of place. They also share their thoughts on their working methods: for Norman, printmaking is like writing music - trying to capture and fix light and weather. For Robert, writing is a strange and solitary process: he reflects on the rhythm of prose and reads his latest "selkie" or seal-folk song.
Norman has been etching and painting for seven decades, with a focus on the British landscape - from the south of England to the most northerly parts of Scotland. His works are in the collections of leading museums and galleries around the world.
Robert has written widely about the natural world: his book The Old Ways is a best-selling exploration of Britain's ancient paths. Last year he published The Lost Words, a collaboration with the artist Jackie Morris, in which they aimed to bring nearby nature – the animals, trees and plants from our landscapes – back into the lives and stories of Britain's children." (BBC)
Here is the 'listen again' link: I hope that you will also find his inspiring and remindful of what is important for us as educators, in our quests to create heartening educational approaches, and to all children. (If the link doesn't work for you, do email me, as I downloaded the file.)
Brilliant sparks: In reading up today, I've found that Macfarlane & Morris' book has inspired at least 17 crowdfunding campaigns to make the book freely available in schools, and the John Muir Trust has made an Explorers Guide to the book. It's so heartening, isn't it, when popular actions like these are inspired by heartfelt connections and beautiful expression?
[images from Norman Ackroyd's website; BBC; Amazon]
Around fifteen years ago I was in my second year of biological studies at the University. I was in Italy, specifically in Tuscany, a region worldwide known for the splendour of its Renaissance art. At that time, lecturers used to took students to nature observing it for long periods: memories of my ramblings in woods looking for living creatures, from plants to microscopic animals, are still sculptured in my mind. Seeing and studying the multitude of life in all its forms and "in the field" was the guiding experience that brought me to become a biologist with a deep urge to understand biodiversity and work out solutions to preserve it.
This interest took me and my family around Europe, giving us the possibility to live in Germany and now in UK, working with colleagues from all around the world. Meanwhile I became a mother. Facing the responsibility of what education implies, I felt the urgency to re-think the responsibility of each individual in its daily life in a wider perspective and thus the importance of education in our society: we are taking the responsibility to build a sustainable society, if we want our Planet and us to survive.
From my point of view, that of a biologist and a mother, we take care of the Earth as much as we take care of our children and thus education. And the other way around. So, we have the huge duty to educate our children to take care of our Planet and its biodiversity, which sustains us every single day. In other words, we have the responsibility (and the honour!) to facilitate the love that every human being innately has for nature. When during my work I try to work out solutions to communicate awareness of Earth's biodiversity to every people, the light that leads me is ultimately the same that led me many years ago in those woods in Tuscany while I was studying the brimming of life. This light is made in its core by the sense of beauty – the same that probably inspired many Renaissance artists, like Leonardo or Michelangelo!
How do we communicate children caring for the Planet Earth? How do we let children thrive this light? Giving them time and space to nurture and let flourish the sense of beauty that they innately have in a nutshell since they are born: experiencing nature every day, playing in nature, trusting their ability to relate to nature.
Children's innate recognition of beauty and educational work that supports this have been widely studied and enlightened by eminent protagonists of the Reggio experience.