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Danish Pastries and the Pedagogy of Education for Environmental Sustainability

by James on March 20th, 2012

I was in Denmark for a few days last week, invited to contribute to a round-table seminar on The Pedagogy of Education for Environmental Sustainability. It was organised by Karen Blincoe of ICIS, and Anneliese Ryberg of Ducks in a Row, who are looking to set up a Folk High School which specialises in this area of learning.

My own contribution to the event, which was spread over two days, was to share my approach to working in a creative ways with both children and adults, responding to our sensory and imaginative relationship to our local environment. I chose to talk about my work with children as I wanted to stress what I believe we can learn about the needs and potential of adults in education, when we view human development and learning as a continuum, rather than chopping it up into fairly arbitrary sections.

I wanted to share my understanding of how babies are born inherently creative, and can be supported to use their bodies and imaginations, to explore and make sense of their place in a more than human world, as they grow and develop, and that we as adults can too

In other words, what I was asking and exploring was, what is it as adults that stops us from experiencing ourselves as continuous with the more-than-human world, as being embedded within it and learning from that perceptual position as embodied individuals? And what can an embodied, creative, place-based approach to learning offer adults, as well as children, in terms of their personal and social development and ecological learning?

Its a very big subject and one that others at the seminar explored in different but very much related ways. Chris Seeley looked at Artful Knowing in Higher Education and Organisational Development, Julie Richardson and Patricia Shaw shared the thinking and practice behind the development of an Holistic Science MSc at Schumacher College in Devon, and Mel Risebrow gave a very heartfelt presentation on the value of ‘whole-hearted’ engagement for individuals and their communities, inspired partly by his previous role as Deputy Director of Schumacher College.

From Denmark, Jepper Laessoe explored (amongst many other layers) the potential of appropriately educated Danish citizens as ‘Change Agents’ within society, and Ditlev Nissen the development of, and dissemination of learning from, the Danish Ecovillage movement.

It was a very rich couple of days with explorations of a very practical, but also a very philosophical and spiritual nature, and an opportunity to meet and share with people that are carrying out really important work in the UK, Denmark and Internationally. It was also a great opportunity to explore many of these areas in more depth with my friend and traveling companion Chris Seeley, and to take in the architecture, food and wider culture of the Danish land and people.

I loved the way that the Louisiana Gallery was perched as an interconnecting series of rooms, on land looking out over the sea, and how the central court of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek offered a palm-fronded oasis from the relative hustle and bustle of central Copenhagen.

When you are in an unfamiliar place the richness of your sensory experience can be so vivid, the crumbled texture of walls, the ‘heft’ and soft depth of a fresh (Danish) pastry. Its all about paying attention to your sensory, intuitive and felt experiences and using these to make sense of the world, with a little sprinkling of facts and figures as and when they are appropriate.


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