A Beautiful Day in Croker Bay

Aug. 16, 2017

Each day on the Canada C3 journey brings another set of remarkable adventures, and our third day was no exception! We continued our trip through Lancaster Sound to Dundas Harbour on Devon Island.  A former RCMP and Hudson’s Bay trading post, we heard a touching story from Jena Merkosak of Pond Inlet, about her grandmother’s birth in this area.  As part of the programming on board, I was honoured to give a presentation on my own research in the area of environmental art activism, connecting to the C3 themes of Environment and Youth Engagement.  Charlene followed this with a moving presentation on residential schools and Project Heart, a community arts project that honours residential school survivors.  As someone of European ancestry, coming to terms with the intergenerational trauma caused by colonialism is difficult but necessary part of the process of reconciliation.  I appreciate Charlene’s perspective in this: there is “nothing helpful in guilting white people, or in re-traumautizing indigenous people” in this process, but “we all have to take the responsibility to teach the truth; we are all teachers.”  Figuring out who the right teachers are for different parts of this process is an ongoing conversation in our group.

The afternoon found us arriving in the spectacular beauty of Croker Bay on Devon Island.  It contains a huge glacial valley, reaching down to the sea at the Bay.  I found myself in a zodiac with experienced guide Jean Castonguay, sea ice expert Tom Zagon, and new Canadian Valerii Dombrovskyi.  With Jean doing the driving, we had the ice walls of the Devon Island Ice Cap to ourselves for an hour while the others hiked on top of it. The glacier is a stunning sight, with nature proving itself to be a skilled sculptor of ice, snow, and water; shades of white, grey and blue can be found on its multiple faces, crevices and gullies.  As we cruised along its length, we passed by many bergie bits and growlers (different sizes of sea ice), reaching out to touch their smooth surfaces as they floated by.  I got a chance to try painting with pieces of teh glacier on the beach next – one of the ways I’m trying to capture the journey artistically.  A hike on the top of the glacier followed, with my first taste of the purity of glacial water.  During this visit we were captivated by the beauty of the glacier, yet we struggled with the knowledge that it is melting quickly due to human-induced climate change, along with other parts of the polar ice cap.  I worry deeply about the effects of this, and it forms in part the impetus for my own work in Environmental & Sustainability Education.

As if the day couldn’t get any better, in the evening we found ourselves on the hangar for a special dinner prepared by chef Matt Krizan from Mahone Bay, NS.  With a view of the glacier out the back, and Matt’s broad grin presenting us a fabulous meal (how did he do this in a ship’s galley?!), we toasted how lucky we are to see these beautiful parts of Canada that few get to see.  If more could see them, would everyone work towards better addressing climate change? How will I change to do this in my own life?

Note:  Not surprisingly, wifi is proving to be elusive at times.  I am writing posts daily but sometimes having a hard time getting internet access to post them – please be patient as I get caught up.

          

Reflecting on Reconciliation

Aug. 15, 2017

Our second day on Canada C3 was a day of thinking through what reconciliation means for me.  As one of the themes of this journey, we’re practicing reconciliation by learning about the ways of knowing of the Inuit, as well as the those of First Nations’ peoples across Canada.  The morning found us in Tay Bay for our first hike on the land, guided by Jaypooti Aliqatuqtuq, an Inuit hunter, guide, and bear guard who is on this leg with us.  His deep knowledge of the land was apparent in his explanation of bear tracks, owl pellets, native plants, and hunting sites – he is attuned to details in nature that most of us missed.  Another one of the respected members of our journey is Charlene Bearhead, a knowledge-keeper from Edmonton.  A mother of 6 & grandmother to 7, Charlene has been the Education Lead on the National Truth & Reconciliation Commission, and is now the Education Coordinator of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.  She is also a co-chair of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, which supported the Legacy Room on the ship.  This contemplative space is filled with gifts from First Nation and Inuit communities along the Canada C3 route – lacrosse sticks, an Inuit drum, handmade snowshoes, books, and many meaningful artworks.  Charlene gave us a wonderful introduction to the Room and to the Fund (if you’re not familiar with it, please look it up.)

We were honoured to witness Jaypooti give Charlene a gift of polar bear claws for this room, which came from one of his hunts – it was an emotional moment that touched us all.  And the day ended with our first spectacular polar bear sighting on an ice flow, as well as observing broad-winged murres and kittiwakes on the steep cliffs Cape Hay.  Paul Smith, a bird biologist on the trip, shared his knowledge of how these remarkable birds survive in this harsh climate. This led me to think of the knowledge, the relationships, and the resilience we can learn from the Inuit, from First Nations’ peoples, and from ‘more-than-human’ beings like polar bears and seabirds, if only we take the time to listen, to observe, to feel and to connect.  For me, part of reconciliation is learning to see and respect the deep connections between all life forms on this planet, and how we can play active roles in contributing to their – and ultimately our own – health and longetivity.

Learning about Place-based Education

We were lucky to bring in David Sobel from Antioch University to OISE this past summer to do a talk and day-long workshop on place-based education.  David is the guru of Place-Based Education (PBE), having written extensively about it in his many books (looking to Mapmaking with Children, Childhood & Nature, or Place-Based Education, to name only a few).  Working with his partner, Jen Kramer, David led our teachers through a variety of art-based learning activities based on creative mapping, collages, and miniature worlds.  Our teachers would be the first to tell you that they aren’t ‘artists” or ‘creative’, yet all were fully engaged in these experiences as David and Jen had us consider the places in which we grew up, and the places we live in now as a starting point to thinking about PBE.  David’s rich set of examples of PBE, drawn from schools all over the US, inspired us with its ‘real world’ learning that can take place when using this approach – creating museum exhibits, cleaning up wetlands as just two examples. In Jen’s afternoon workshop, the teachers created beautiful collages using discarded artworks of key parts of Toronto, inspired by author’s book; a few examples are shared below.  We ended the day feeling better prepared to tackle PBE theoretically, practically, and aesthetically!

place-based-collage-1place-based-collage-2
place-based-collage-3

Going DEEPER

I have been focusing specifically on eco-art education in this blog since its inception, but have just finished working on a major document related to environmental and sustainability education and so would like to share it here.  Called DEEPER – the Deepening Environmental Education in Pre-Service Education Resource – it aims to support and inspire faculty, staff, and students to deepen the implementation of environmental education in initial teacher education programs across the province.

 This resource guide is a substantial publication that is the first of its kind.  It was a collaborative effort informed by the input of over 60 participants of the DEEPER provincial roundtable that we hosted at OISE last May.  Since that time, we have coordinated a team of writers and reviewers from faculties of education across Ontario who have shared strategies, practices, and resources to encourage initial teacher educators, teacher candidates and staff to improve the breadth and depth of environmental education in their programs, faculties and institutions.

 It has been a rewarding journey working on the DEEPER guide; I have learned so much about the field of environmental education, and its practice in Ontario teacher education programs, and there is so much more going on than I had anticipated.  Most importantly I have forged new connections with other environmental educators working across the province, which was in fact one of our motivations for writing this document in the first place.  I hope you will take the time to look through it; so much of what we have compiled could be applied in school or community settings.  I certainly hope that it helps you to go DEEPER into your own practice of environmental education moving forward.

The DEEPER guide can be found at:  

http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/ese/DEEPER.html 

 

Deeper Cover 2014

Get outside and draw!

I had the pleasure recently of attending a workshop led by naturalist Clare Walker Leslie, who is a prolific artist and author.  Clare is a passionate proponent of art-based nature journalling, well-evidenced in her many journals.  Seeing her journals is a delight – they are rich with drawings of the natural world, observations, and connections to her experiences.  Her drawing style is beautiful – in some cases, quick and gestural to capture the shape of a bird before it flies off into the bush; in others, detailed, well-worked watercolours or coloured pencil drawings created in her studio from outdoor sketches and field guides.  She spends a lot of time in classrooms with students, encouraging them to use drawing (or mark-making, as she prefers to call it) as a way to closely observe the flora and fauna around them – an important step towards developing their ecological literacy.  Clare delivered three workshops in Toronto, including one at the Master of Teaching Environmental Education conference at OISE.  It was refreshing to get outside – yes, even in a cold Ontario winter – just to draw, and to be reminded of the power of journaling as an ongoing learning activity for learners of all ages.  For more info on Clare, or to order one of her books, please visit her website at:  

 http://www.clarewalkerleslie.com/index.htm

Using art as a part of environmental education

Just finished a summer institute for teachers in Toronto that took an integrated approach environmental education (EE) and ecological literacy by using art, science, outdoor ed and mapping as a way to get teachers and students outside to learn about the environment. What a great time! Hosted by Evergreen (an amazing Canadian EE non-profit) and the EE dept. at the Toronto District School Board, about 30 teachers came to Runnymede PS in the west end of the city for four days of tours, learning activities, and stimulating discussions, all centred on EE. I was lucky to work with co-facilitator and science educator extraordinaire Pam Miller (for the fourth summer in a row), new Evergreen staffer Erin Wood, as well as four inspiring lead teachers from schools around the city – Anne Lakoff, Karen Goodfellow, Ryan Adams and Jennet Poffenroth.

We organized the institute on learning in, about and for the environment, themes drawn from the TDSB’s approach to developing students’ ecoliteracy. We combined this with a focus on learning trails, a type of guided learning experience that gets teachers and students outside to access the range of environments in their communities. We modeled interpretative, self-guided and investigative trails, and then had the teachers develop their own for the upcoming school year.

Of course there was a strong art component to this institute as we encouraged teachers to experiment with age-appropriate environmental action with their students. Part of this was manifested via creative approaches to mapping, but a few of us also played with developing the Yellow Fish Road concept to make it more eye-catching. Here is the result of our efforts – a stenciled fish near the Humber River that reminds people of the rich range of life in our rivers and lakes in the city.

Overall it was a wonderful week of PD for all of us as the teacher-participants always end up teaching us just as much as we teach them. I’m hoping some of the ideas from the institute take on a life of their own in schools across Toronto over the course of the school year.

Hilary