With a new term already upon us, it’s the perfect time for thinking about our goals and aspirations for the year ahead, building on what has come before. Here at Reboot the Future, we’ve decided to reboot this year’s educational material into a slightly different, but exciting new format.
Last year we produced monthly activity packs with key themes such as social justice, international cooperation, climate and compassionate values. This year we have three overarching, termly themes for you to really get stuck into. This first term we’ll be focusing on connecting with nature, the next term we’ll cover connecting with others, and finally we’ll explore connecting with ourselves.
Each term, we’ve designed a project pack that develops students' understanding of the connections between themselves, others and the planet. The packs are called ‘We Are Nature’, ‘We Are Together’, and ‘We Are the Future’. Each pack guides students through a process of discovery in which they explore the fundamentals of a topic in order to plan a small action that tackles the issue they’re studying. The project can be completed over any time period from over a few days, to weeks, months or the whole year.
We think the above topics help to encompass the foundations upon which a just and sustainable world is built. Central to all of these topics is the idea of connection and relationships. It is clear that in the modern world we are experiencing crises of separation and alienation. We treat the natural world that nurtures us as a stranger, we treat whole populations as expendable and, at the same time, we often fail to care for ourselves. Good relationships are the healing mechanisms to resolve these issues. Developing relationships requires intimate understanding and empathy. Sustaining them requires consistent acts of kindness and care. Once we truly see our connection to the world around us in a system of these relationships we begin to care for and be cared for in ways that make us all better.
Why connect with nature?
Connecting with nature is a crucial aspect of rebalancing our relationship with the world around us. It is evident that the way we are collectively living and acting damages nature, depleting it and unbalancing our own societies in the process. Our relationship with the natural world needs improving and we can begin to do this by reconnecting with it. By taking the time to learn about nature, its processes and its preferences, we can be more attentive to its needs. At the same time, by cultivating our emotional connection with it, we can make sure that we, and the generations after us, treat nature with the appropriate love and respect.
One key aspect of all this is to really question the category of ‘nature’ in the first place. We are not, as the use of that term suggests, separate from nature at all. Nature encompasses us and is, as Robin Wall Kimmerer suggests, a ‘democracy of species’. Truly understanding nature sees humanity as one star in a universe of different plants, animals and landscapes. All with different needs, desires, and functions.
It is this holistic understanding that can provide the blueprint for how we care for all things. If we love and treat nature with respect it only makes sense to do the same for all people in every community. Learning to listen to and empathise with every kind of being makes us more empathetic and compassionate overall. If we see that every species has its place, we too can find a place for ourselves and give ourselves the care and respect we deserve. Connecting with nature therefore is the foundation from which we can improve our planet, our relationships and our mental health.
Why ‘action research’ ?
Action research is a way of bringing about change by taking action. It differs from many other types of research because the researcher takes part in the action, which is performed in a real-life setting. Action research usually follows a four-step process of:
- Observing what is happening
- Planning what you are going to do about it
- Taking action by putting your plan into practice
- Reflecting on what happened and thinking about what you could do next
These steps are often repeated - with the reflections and observations from one action research phase feeding into plans and actions for another research phase.This means that the researcher can use what they have learned to keep improving the actions they take.
Due to the fact that it is hands-on, active, and takes place in a real-life setting, it is a powerful way to tangibly bring about change, and can be an empowering and motivating experience for those who take part.
The We Are Nature Pack
This pack uses action research as a way to simultaneously enhance students' connection to nature at the same time as improving their initiative through developing personal projects.
First, students are taken to a natural space near them to observe it. Emphasis is placed on exploring the different senses and on really taking the time to notice the plants, animals and all the minute details.
Next, students take these observations and impressions as inspiration to plan for a small action they could do that makes a positive difference to nature locally, nationally or globally. Students are encouraged to think through what their skills are and how they could use these gifts to make a difference.Some types of action might include designing a small local campaign, giving nature a voice through a creative writing piece or researching an interesting natural phenomenon.
After this action is completed students are encouraged to reflect on their experience by thinking through what they have learnt, how they could improve and what they have been inspired to do in the future.
We can’t wait for you and your students to come up with some wonderful projects. We hope that through them, you can discover new connections between yourselves and the natural world around you - good luck!