“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.