Maybe we should have lobbied for wonder and not sustainability…


“Why do you want to go back to the Arctic if it’s so cold and difficult?”

A very good question.

During a wonderful session with Hackney Pirates, an amazing after-school youth group, round the corner from the Digital Explorer office, I had recounted tales of life on the Catlin Arctic Survey, and this question caused me to reflect.

“Because on a still day the air is a cloud of fairy dust, like walking through a cloud of speckled diamonds, and when it snows cartoon flakes settle on your many layers of clothing, their perfect symmetry lasting a lifetime of seconds before dissolving. The light bends and shimmers, inverted rainbows cradle the sun and at night its never-setting rays turn the blown snow candy-floss shades. It’s a land of magic and mystery and nowhere else I have been compares.”

I am more careful now not to speak of the possible destruction of these fragile ecosystems when with primary school aged pupils. The schemes of work we now produce on the Arctic and soon the coral reef, leave the threats to the end. In this move, I have been much influenced by the work of David Sobel’s ‘Beyond Ecophobia’, George Monbiot’s ‘Feral’ and David Louv’s ‘Last Child in the Woods’.

During the hiatus of debate around the new curriculum and specifically the clamours for explicit teaching about sustainability, maybe we got it wrong. I don’t want to have to share today’s news of rapid decline in coral reefs or the Gazprom vs Greenpeace conflict in the Russian Arctic with primary school children and lay at their feet the burden of creating a better world.

I believe that there should be more place for wonder and that perversely, the new science curriculum, which many groups aimed to change (including Digital Explorer) provides these opportunities. With its emphasis on the local, on nature found in the school grounds, of growing and observing plants of understanding the life cycles of the creatures found under rocks or on the seashore, there is much we can work with.

It is unlikely we would have got ‘wonder’ into the curriculum, just as it was unlikely that sustainability would have been a core theme. But we have the chance now to subvert and support.

Subvert the proposed rigour into wonder and support all those primary school teachers in creating those moments of wonder for their pupils. Sustainability can wait and maybe the ‘adults’ could show some leadership before pushing the need to change on our children.

With all the talk of ecosystem services, do we lose track of magic? Let’s fight for wonder in the classroom.

Join Us for a Rhino Event on 18th September


The Changing Face of the Rhino – Wednesday 18th September at 7:00pm

Mantis Foundation lecture auction

The Changing Face of the Rhino is a fundraising event that Digital Explorer is proud to support. The event is an inspiring account of the living trauma of rhino poaching. The event gives focus to how humanity can be inspired, and to reshape attitudes towards environmental crisis. You can book tickets online.

Here at Digital Explorer we have got 50 tickets available at half price (£10). This fundraising event is an excellent opportunity to get students actively engaged with conservation issues. The event has a number of relevant speakers including an opening by Bear Grylls, an introduction from William Travers OBE, and a lecture from Dr. William Fowlds, with closing words from Virginia McKenna OBE.

These tickets are for teachers and students only and are available on a first come first serve basis. If you are interested please contact Flora at Digital Explorer.

The Changing Face of the Rhino fundraising event would suit GCSE and A level geography students. There are accompanying resources available from Digital Explorer entitled the Voices of Conservation.

The Voices of Conservation Collection focuses on issues of rhino conservation in South Africa. The collection includes booklets, lesson plans, facts sheets and assembly resources. There is a fantastic competition courtesy of Voices of conservation that offers the opportunity to win a journey of a life time, and be part of a conservation mission. To be a part of this amazing opportunity download the voices of conservation poster available on the Digital Explorer website. These resources are based around the work of Dr. William Fowlds and others, and help to bring issues of conservation to the classroom. For full access to these resources go to Digital Explorer website.
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Too horrific for the geography classroom?

We’re looking to bring the issue of rhino conservation in South Africa to classrooms and schools across the UK in the coming months. At the moment we are looking at some of the imagery available and some of it is truly horrific.

Rhino horns are often cut off when the rhino is still alive, leaving them to die, suffering terribly. Images like the one below are all too common.

In the Far East, ground rhino horn is worth more than gold and is marketed as a remedy to a range of illnesses from hangovers to cancer. There is no clinical evidence behind these claims.

This increased demand led to 448 rhinos being poached in 2011 alone.

We want to make an impact with these images for your classroom to bring this home, but is it a step too far or justifiable?

Conservation’s Dirty Secrets

Watch Conservation’s Dirty Secrets: Dispatches, Channel 4, Monday 20th June: 8pm

Digital Explorer Director, Oliver Steeds travels the globe to investigate the conservation movement and its major organisations.

Exciting opportunities for educators

Earthwatch logoEarthwatch are offering the chance for science and geography educators to get out into the field and work alongside scientists to create educational resources.

From the Earthwatch website…

This year we are pleased to be able to offer 24 fully-funded educator places on a variety of different Earthwatch projects. Working alongside leading scientists for a period of between one to two weeks, small groups of five to eight educators will take part in hands-on scientific research on facilitated projects which include Dolphins of Greece and Whales and Dolphins of the Hebrides.

See their educators section for more information. The closing date is 4 May.

Google Earth Outreach

A great day with Google at the launch of the Google Earth Outreach programme for NGOs and charities.

You need chaos in your soul…

“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” A great quote from Nietzsche in Jay Griffiths’ ‘Wild‘ that is part of a growing wilderness flavour at Digital Explorer. Bringing the joy of wilderness to a greater number of young people is as important now as it has ever been.

Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop was recently interviewed as part of the Wilderness Foundation’s Campfire questions, and Digital Explorer looks forward to future collaboration with the organisation.

The Wilderness Foundation was set up to protect wilderness areas wherever they are by:

  • Educating people about the benefits of wilderness
  • Providing opportunities for direct experience of wild places
  • Campaigning for their preservation when threatened with development.

There is also a great article in this month’s Geographical Magazine (November 2007) examining the increasing ‘nature deficit’ in young people. Search out a copy if you can.

How can ‘world changing’ organisations harness the social web?

Preparing for a talk at Earthwatch, I had a look at their Myspace site. Earthwatch has 132 friends. In comparison Lily Allen is listed as having 405,900 friends on Myspace.

What can we do to help ‘world changing’ organisations such as Earthwatch harness the developments in the social web? Or is it a deeper issue of making saving the world ‘cool’ or as the teenager might say ‘sick’, ‘chung’, ‘buff’ or ‘nang’?

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