THE JOY OF LEARNING

Here is part one of my latest nature art project “Telling our Stories with the Help of Nature’s Muses” – A three week joy filled learning exploration of our interconnectedness, life cycles and celebrations of all life.

As Spring blooms so too do the grade one students of Khalsa Elementary School as they learn how to tell their stories orally, visually through a wide variety of art, musically and with movement. These multi-disciplinary artistic adventures are designed to use the muses of nature to invoke the uncovering of their own personal stories and deepen their respect for the stories of others, including the story of Earth and all her inhabitants.

The lessons were gentle and simple for grade one’s. They learned through hands on nature play; why trees are important and that we are all part of nature, interconnected.

And this connection should be celebrated. The collective journey was about fostering a deep love and respect for the natural world and all life, in a fun and soulful way.

“The students were so happy every single day”

My belief is that we can never be whole, in harmony, balanced, unless every part of us is healthy – body, mind and spirit – if we only educate the mind we are not whole, there is an emptiness remaining that we need to fill.

Nature art helps nurture harmony and balance which in turn lead to happiness

The spirit needs to be recognized, nourished, encouraged; the imagination needs space and seeds of wonder to nurture, and the body needs fresh air and exercise.

Music – Not only does music help learning abilities, but it increases focus in listeners. The students made their own musical instruments from nature material, danced wild and free, like the trees in the wind.

By allowing students to choose their own tree, they feel an instant connection. They can feel the texture of the tree, watch it swaying in the wind. They can explore the birds and insects such as the butterflies that live in and around the tree.

Learning about Animal and Insect Habitats

The students learned how important the butterflies habitat was for their continued survival using Jon Sherman’s “Butterfly Blue” lyrics for our inspiration to create 3-D collages.

Another day we learned about Canadian Artsist Emily Carr. I felt Emily Carr would be a good example to show how artists can paint and draw how, they feel and experience the “spirit of the trees. They painted how they felt, with their hearts.

The students created the most soulful artwork as they explored artists and sculptors from past and present.

They created stick people and told stories, orally, (non-verbally) and through dance and expressive movement…

“The whole energy of the school changed during the nature art project” – Mrs. Boga – Principal

Jon Sherman’s beautiful flute music “Butterfly Blue” (which was the inspiration for the nature art project) echoed throughout the school corridors during the project, gifting joy to all and stirring curiosity even within the students and teachers not involved in the project.

Nature art appeared in the displays which evoked others into sharing their childhood memories of time spent in nature.

One school office clerk shared her love of nature and poetry with me – how as a child she would read poetry and sing songs in her school assembly. Her face animated, as she spoke, with such excitement, recalling her love of walking barefoot as a child – precious memories of communion – of that feeling of connection through nature and the arts. Her face lit up as she finished saying “we must remember – we must share these memories. We need to make time to tell our stories”

The Relationship is what matters

Our relationship, with our students, with our parents, with Mother Earth, is the foundation of all learning. I think this was the most powerful school experience for me personally…that the whole school came alive, the nature art opened up new ways of communicating, of sharing stories from the past and creating new stories to share in the future; and that is surely what school should be – ALIVE! Watch the video : (Very grateful to Wendy Goudie for her wonderful dance workshop):

“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” – Sir Ken Robinson

I read a very disturbing article this week :  “Our children are in a devastating emotional state! Talk to teachers and professionals who have been working in the field for the last 15 years. You will hear concerns similar to mine. Moreover, in the past 15 years, researchers have been releasing alarming statistics on a sharp and steady increase in kids’ mental illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions” – Victoria Prooday

 

Spending those 3 weeks at Khalsa school and watching the students and teachers celebrate the joy of learning gave me hope, gives me hope, knowing so many adults are already making changes to reduce these horrifying statistics.

We know that time in nature nurtures children’s creativity and improves children’s resilience to stress, reduces attention disorders, depression and anxiety.

As we approach a new term in September, let us make sure we all provide opportunities for the children in our lives to learn, play and grow in nature and through creative exploration.

You can learn more about Educating the Heart here: NATURE ART PROGRAM

Studies have proven that playing and creating in a natural environment provides many benefits including:

  • Supports Creativity and problem solving. Studies of children in schoolyards found that children engage in more creative forms of play in the green areas. They also played more cooperatively (Bell and Dyment, 2006). Play in nature is especially important for developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development (Kellert, 2005)
  • Enhances cognitive abilities. Daily exposure to natural settings increases children’s ability to focus and enhances cognitive abilities (Wells, 2000)
    Improves academic performance. Studies in the US show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education support significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math.
  • Students in outdoor science programs improved their science testing scores by 27% (American Institutes for Research, 2005).
  • Cultivates gratitude and mindfulness
  • Nurtures love, honor and respect
  • Increases confidence
  • Increases teamwork
  • Results in social inclusion
  • Develops a deep connection with nature and all living thing.
  • Provides positive social interactions for all children
  • Improves agility, coordination and balance
  • Develops risk assessment abilities and critical thinking skills
  • Develops strength and endurance
  • Reduces childhood obesity
  • Heightens overall use of senses

Further reading:  The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children

Jon Sheramn’s beautiful branch flute music can be found here: Butterfly Blue

This program was a great success. We all learned so much over the Spring, and it would have not been possible without the AIC (Arts in the Classroom) grant from ARTSTARTS. A special thank you to Wendy Goudie for the wonderful dance workshop and choreography of the butterfly life cycle.

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