Listening to the Literal: Orientations Towards How Nature Communicates
This paper begins with an assumption that the natural world is literally able to speak. What follows is research around a new place-based, ecological and imaginative public school in Maple Ridge, BC. The school has no building to speak of as there is an attempt being made, as part of the day-to-day pedagogical practice, to listen to the more-than-human as an active voice and co-teacher thereby moving from human teachers/researchers speaking in, about and for the more-than-human towards speaking with and listening to it. Drawing on our lived experience as researchers, theorists, and ecological educators, this paper proposes to draw on the student voices at the Environmental School to posit a series of five distinct orientations. Each of these orientations is potentially available to us and each offers a different way to understand, attend to and communicate with the natural world. These orientations have implications, if taken seriously, for educational practice and content. In this paper, we focus on clarifying these orientations and anchor them with examples from interviews done over the course of several school years with three different students. We end the paper by pointing out some of the educational implications that might arise if we are to take these students and, as a result, the proposed orientations seriously.
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