I just finished reading Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods (upcoming #pypchat book club). I love the sentiment and main idea of the book. We need to connect and explore with the outdoors more. There is a synthesis here with the work Gregory Bateson in Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, who argues that our thought process should mirror the complexities of nature, and the problems of our world result from a disconnect between the way our mind works, and the way nature works (warning: not an easy read if you are not into philosophy and epistemology). He is right that we need to focus on the beautiful side of nature and evoke a sense of awe and wonder. This topic is not a new one, people have been arguing for the decades about a need to improve Ecological Literacy. Check out the Center for Ecoliteracy. Great resources, books, and overall philosophy.
Aside: I do think that Louv's book is a bit simplistic about the whole environmental movement, and that his solutions to some of the problems he speaks about are overly optimistic, and at times, downright unrealistic when we consider the implications of scale.
I have always been passionate about the environment, and a strong believer in the need to incorporate Ecological Thinking (Complexity, Systems Thinking, etc.) into the classroom. That being said, I don't think I have been that good at it, and I want to explore this topic more, and push myself into new direction. I have been feeling overwhelmed this year, in part because I am trying to do too much. A good friend suggested (rather obviously) that I needed to focus on what I was passionate about.
Well, this is it. Where to start?
The Natural World
I decided after reading to try and spend more time doing class outdoors. Not an easy proposition considering the weather here in Germany, but I think that is part of the challenge. I hope to share some of my ideas for getting outside and connecting with nature.
We are starting observation journals. Once every week I hope to get outside to the park, or the school playground, and have each student examine something in close detail, sketching it and asking questions, or making observations (if you have read the Evolution of Calpurnia Tate you will know what I mean).
Lines of Inquiry:
I hope to push the school to include at least one line of inquiry on each of the units to include some kind of Ecological theme.
Making Systems Thinking Visible:
I have been using Making Thinking Visible routines and drawing attention to the Thinking Moves for the last two years now. I love it. It has been transformative for me as an educator and for the focus in the classroom. That being said, I have always felt that all these Thinking Moves start to float away into the ether and disappear. They know the terms, and are beginning to tell the difference between some of the harder ones, but what it is all saying? There is no central core, except for thinking itself. I think, therefore I am. Descartes is a bit too linear for my tastes. I am going to tray and adapt the Making Thinking Visible frameworks and cast it into the light of something that is closer to home for me; Systems Thinking (or Complexity Science, or Non-Linear Dynamics, or Emergence; so many names!). What does this have to do with outside; well, hopefully we can 'see' these thinking moves in action in the great outdoors.... that is the seed of the idea anyway. Not sure where this road will lead, or what this artefact will look like.