Remember the film “What Women Want?” ? The premise was: have a man be able to “read a woman’s mind”, to be in her thoughts, so that “men” could gain insight into how women think and then presumably deal with them in “healthier” way, equipped with this new insight. Let’s pretend for a minute that we could do such a thing with “nature”. Let’s anthropomorphize nature and pretend that it’s an organic, conscious entity and that we can “get inside of it” and hear it’s thoughts. You with me? (Don’t worry, we”ll come back to earth in a minute.)
My thinking here is to learn from the “ecosystems” approach- that everything is integrated, interdependent. Isn’t this how we’ve discovered so much over the centuries? The world IS an integrated – interconnected - system, and to ignore this is to wallow in the dark. Now, our human world has caught up with this theme- no surprise since people are “of the world/nature”. We see the globalization of the world, we see the “global village” emerging. We trade with each other around the world as if we lived in adjacent towns, distance is of no matter. Information is shared instantly regardless of the distance it needs to travel. We understand that polluted water has effects immediately and down the road as well as locally and further away. We’ve learned that to eliminate one species often means cutting into a food chain and thus causing populations “problems” with other species down the chain. We’ve arrived. We live in one town today- call it EarthTown. We have to recall that country names and boundaries are a human layer on the world, the political layer. Otherwise the world is just “there”– it’s just land and water. Mexico? USA? Canada? – it’s just a land mass. The lines could be drawn anywhere. They are drawn where they are because of human activity, and they move as human activity directs: no more Yugoslavia, one Germany-two Germanies-one Germany again, and so on.
What we need to do for education is identify what kind of human education makes sense according to how nature works. What makes us think that “nature” doesn’t have any guidance for us? It seems to me that all the “good” ideas are the ones that are in-sync with universal laws and principles. This is truly where “green”, “sustainable” education would come from. If we take this approach it’s bound to succeed: to help each child/student to develop to fulfill their potential- how could it not? It would be a nature-derived approach, and nature “wants” all of its elements to be integrated, harmonious.
So what can we learn from nature, once “inside it”? We learn the law of interconnectedness. We learn that every action has effects. What does this mean for education? It means that the principles that guide education should be founded on the broadest principles of all organic life. What is true of bacteria and lizards is also true of homo sapiens. There’s a lot more that’s true of us, but the base is shared. And how can this inform pedagogical principles? Let’s start with one basic fact: all living organisms grow/develop according to specific linear steps and stages but these steps and stages are NOT attached to a fixed, predetermined timeline. This is why that package of bean seeds says “germinates in 8-16 days”. The stages of germination are the same for all seeds, but how much time will pass as the stages emerge is unique to each individual seed. We too are each “individual seeds”. What does this mean for schools?