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Learning on a Living Planet

By David Aubrey Berger

We live on a planet, with myriad human and non-human beings. We humans are thinkers, schemers, dreamers, a mix of technical know-how, and spiritual beliefs. We act not by instinct, but in accordance with what we believe to be reasonable, rational, required, or just plain expected by our community, peers or family. About all of this there is much that can be said.

I'd just like to give a few cursory thoughts about how our education can do a better job of letting the natural world speak to us, be included, and be welcomed into our learning process. First let us recognize that the way we think can get in the way of our feeling, our connecting to each other and our learning from the way that nature is always talking to us.

Some pointers as to what to do to let nature in:

  1. Pay attention to your senses - encourage the students in your class to express what they feel - the body is the first point of contact between earth and self. Also, recognize and admit your own senses and have the.courage to share those feelings. We teach by example. Is the classroom too hot, too loud, too cold? There is no wrong answer, but there is a problem if we ignore what our body is telling us.

  2. Connect and listen to each other - see the students for who they are, and where they are. Let concerns about how things are happening in the classroom affect you and influence your way of communicating and the work that you give students to do. Nature is subtle, and encouraging students to recognize their own way of learning goes a long way to help them accept themselves. There is no right or wrong way to learn - I believe that each one of us has our unique learning style. A way of sitting, a time in the day that is better than another, a choice of preferring videos that are fast paced over slow paced, or the other way around. We ground on the planet when we accept and appreciate our own way rather than judge it against the perceived norms of society.

  3. Recognize the Interconnectedness of all Things - nature surrounds and inhabits us. This simple fact requires teachers (who are in a position of power) to remind students of this simple fact. Discussing this is a great way for students to make connections, and allow their heart, senses, and minds open up to the natural world. We come into the world without perceiving a disconnect between these pieces. As we are encultured we learn to see things as separate. It is important to keep the doors of perception open along the way to knowledge of the distinction between things.

Re-Examining our cultural context for education is what I believe the next frontier of education is. We have mastered information, now it is time to expand our understanding of the context in which education occurs. At a simple level our society is good at things in space, but not things over time. Fitting into the natural world is about fitting our society into nature for the long haul.

Thanks for reading - let's continue the conversation.


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