Thursday, April 18, 2013

THOUGHTS ABOUT TEACHING ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP TO CHILDREN: Developing curiosity and connection through the messiness of creativity

Dear Pilgrims, I want to write to you today from the position of an artist who loves the environment and desires to use her engagement with CREATIVITY to promote environmental stewardship.

Today, I am documenting part of a presentation that I collaborated with Sandy Voegeli when we attended the First National Natural History Conference in the Bahamas in March 2013. 

What you see in the following images are the first 10 slides from our PowerPoint presentation. I place them here on my blog, Coffee With Hallelujah, to hold them in time so that others may read how a visual artist and a master diver (Sandy Voegeli) thought about teaching environmental stewardship to children.

Here is part 1 (slides 1-10):
CHILDREN BECOMING GUARDIAN ANGELS OF THEIR ENVIRONMENT.  The image you see here on this opening slide is from one of the children of San Salvador, Bahamas, who participated in the first Sea Camp in 2008. I was the visiting artist and developed this workshop with Sandy Voegeli.
SEA CAMPER ON THE ISLAND OF SAN SALVADOR.  This image was taken by BREEF during the 2012 Sea Camp at San Salvador, Bahamas. Getting kids out of the classroom and into their backyard makes a difference in how they feel about their environment and what they learn. 

CLASSES AT THE GERACE RESEARCH CENTRE.  Children of San Salvador, Bahamas, use the classroom facilities at the field station of the Gerace Research Centre during July, when most researchers find it too hot to do research. Their Sea Camp  experience is comprised of outdoor "field" experiences and supported by classroom lessons and activities. (photo by Sandy Voegeli)

EXAMINING HOW THE ENVIRONMENT HAS BEEN TAUGHT.  Educators are no longer seeing the classroom as a factory and their students as laborers who need to perform and complete tasks. This model is slowly changing. If we are to ask the children to find solutions to the current and future environmental problems, they must learn to think creatively. To ask new questions and find new ways of understanding our beautiful and amazing planet! What kind of education teaches that kind of innovative thinking? ART may be one of the avenues!
RESPECT THE ELDERS AND...Of course, we have so much to benefit from the wisdom of the past. Children need to listen to the stories of their addition to running ahead and feeling empowered to find new solutions. The educators' task today is to help children to be inquisitive. To use their imaginations as tools of discovery! And to find connections to the Earth. (photo by Sandy Voegeli)

FIRST LEARN HOW TO BE IN THAT ENVIRONMENT. For many Bahamians, the first step to learning about their  environment is to learn how to swim and snorkel. Oddly enough, many Bahamians, both old and young, don't go in the water and don't know how to swim. Once any of us know how to be safely in our environment and have settled any questions that cause us to be afraid of that environment, then we have been freed to ENJOY ourselves and the nature we inhabit. We can learn about it and thus connect to the water, the coral, and all the other living creatures.(photo by BREEF)

REALLY LOOKING.  A project that Sandy Voegeli did in at the Sea Camp 2012 was have the children take photographs of their own backyards for a photo competition. By participating in this activity, the children took time to look at plants and animals more closely. In the process they learned to identify characteristics and to assign names to what they were seeing. (photo by Sandy Voegeli)

CURIOSITY IN THE FIELD. Empower children to look, find, and ask questions when they are in their natural environments. Curiosity connects us all to one another and our environments. (photo by Sandy Voegeli)

IDENTIFYING, CONNECTING, AND SEEING. Once children have been outdoors, bringing them and asking them to look through books to find once again what they discovered outdoors is a great way to deepen the learning. Children learn about habitats and life-cycles. Ask the children to connect with a creature or plant and then to study it and draw it. This examination continues the child's journey of connecting with their environment. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)

CREATIVITY IS FULL OF "MESSY" DISCOVERY. Imagine classrooms in which failure is welcomed! Once engaged in the messiness of drawing, painting, acting, or taking a photo (any creative activity), children learn how to fail forward fast. Educators can encourage children to keep trying different approaches to discover what may work and produce a different more satisfying outcome. By supporting the process of doing something with uncertainty, we educators can teach children how to discover solutions previously unknown to any of us. We must let the children know that we adults do not have all the answers. That they as the FUTURE have new answers waiting to emerge. 

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and tell me how you connect to your environment and how you would teach children to be empowered to discover solutions to our Earth's troubled system.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Marianne O'Connor for her support, knowledge, and coaching surrounding the development of this presentation. Great appreciation goes to my beloved friend and co-presenter, Sandy Voegeli. 

To see another part of this presentation, THE GUARDIAN ANGEL PROJECT.


  1. Your mission and your teaching methods are inspiring.

  2. Thank you so much Cecelia for reading my blog and supporting the environmental outreach work I do!