Purpose-Giving People & Places

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Paddling in another purpose-giving place, the Johnstone Strait. Photo: Chris Parslow

Laura Magrath, a teacher of West Vancouver School District’s environmental education academy outside45, concluded a thoughtful blog post with the following statement:  “Ensure that your own educational journey is conducted with purpose.”

Several weeks ago, students in outside45 paddled from Bowen Island to Gambier Island for three days of kayaking, camping, and celebrating being outside in a beautiful part of the world.

I was not on this trip but paddled over from Bowen to Gambier with my partner one evening to join outside45 for some camp fire time before returning to Bowen later that evening.

This short paddle and time with the group reminded me of part of my purpose as an educator in helping develop outside45.

Cooperation, inclusion and appreciation were clearly visible in watching students interact.  It was apparent that students understood that one of the great joys in life is to be in beautiful places with people they care about.

Returning home, in our hour long paddle back to Bowen Island we slowed our kayaks several times and dipped our hands into the warm water to pull plastic bags from the ocean.

In just three hours on the water and in spending time with the group I was reminded quite powerfully of why experiential environmental education matters, I was reminded of the purpose of outside45 and my role in it.

I believe strongly that schools should create opportunities for students to develop deeply supportive relationships with classmates.  I believe strongly that students should be given every opportunity to love learning and that they should be exposed to learning environments that teach them about the world and who they are in it.  And we should all give ourselves frequent opportunities to connect with the natural world as such experiences remind us of how important it is that we be positive participants in the natural systems we contribute to and rely upon.

This last point particularly resonated with me.  If we deliberately and mindfully connect with the natural world, how does this affect our understanding of who we are in the world and how we are to act?  Conversely, If we do not mindfully and frequently connect with natural environments, how does this affect our understanding of who we are in the world and how we are to act?

So, in thinking of my purpose both as an educator and as a participant in the natural world, I endeavour to frequently ask myself these two questions:

(How) Did I connect with the natural world today?  How does this affect my understanding of how to live?

Jackie Hildering, a naturalist behind the website, The Marine Detective, noted after one of her seemingly daily reverential experiences observing whales, “If only more of us could feel the connection to our life-sustaining sea, no matter how far we are from her shores. We’d care more, consume less, better use our electoral and consumer power and – live happier and more meaningful lives.”

(How) Did you connect with the natural world today?  How does this affect your understanding of how to live?

Seeing Stories

Who are the storytellers?

Often, stories come from someone else, we’re told them in a variety forms.  Sometimes we tell them ourselves, often based on our experiences.  At other times, we see them.

Recently, I listened to Wes Nahanee, whose ancestral name is Chiaxten, speak about storytelling to my students as part of our school’s Whale Day Celebration.  The theme of the day was storytelling and students in my class told stories through drawings.  As they shared them with Wes, he spoke about how he looks closely at the natural world, particularly the behaviour of animals, and this helps him understand his mood and what he wants from the day.  What struck me was how closely observation and mindfulness are tied together and how their synergy tells the stories of ourselves, or perhaps just a moment of our day.

So tomorrow morning, after I wake up I will deliberately observe my surroundings, make observations and inferences, and try to understand myself in my environment.  I will see a story and myself in it.

 

For more information on Whale Day at BICS, please click here.