A little bit about my educational journey and personal pedagogy.
I am fascinated by what it means to be human. I love to write; to play, sing and compose music; to do this in the company of friends; and to be outside for much of the day being part of this world. i enjoy exploring new ideas and bringing possibilities into this world. I endeavour to bring beauty into all that I do.
My education background is in Archaeology where I have been fascinated by material culture practices, landscapes and identity and past ways of knowing. My research agenda dealt with colonization, religious transformation and islands, and was situated in the early medieval period in the North Atlantic. This research also explored how how technology, such as GIS and isotopic analysis, can be used to ask and answer and investigate these questions. Recently, as I paused my teaching and research to have a child, I have found great joy and renewed interest in education through home-schooling, and nature-based education. In order to bring these two different educational experiences together in a way that benefits the world, I am pursing a Masters in Education in Sustainability, Creativity and Innovation at Cape Breton University. I am also currently teaching archaeology again at Trent University as well as outdoor education at the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre. My interest has grown in ‘what it means to be human’, connecting our understanding of the past, our closest relatives, where we are today and what we need to bring out in who we are as a species so that this world, and ourselves, may flourish. This starts with education.
I believe that education must teach to what we need to be in this world: happy, connected and in good relationships with the other-than-human peoples with whom we share this beautiful and unique planet. Happiness depends on actively and knowingly cultivating pro-social emotions such as gratitude, compassion, awe and love. Learning needs to take place in communities which promote social, emotional and physical safety and where mistakes are not shunned but celebrated as learning experiences and, sometimes, as I have experienced, the opening of new possibilities. We learn best when we play, and play, not marks, should be a key aspect of education. Indeed, education should not be about the mark we receive but the knowledge and experiences that we share. This means rethinking education, taking it outside more than in, and shifting our understanding of what success means.
Today, we are on the brink of a mass extinction: 200 species become extinct every day. 15,000 languages are endangered, many Indigenous, and as the last native speaker dies, an entire cultural world of knowledge dies with them. Our safety and our children’s safety depend on us reversing this. Education and activism are key to making this happen. Research has demonstrated how pivotal passion-based and project-based learning can be. This is also what our world needs: kids engaging in community based projects that bring well-being into this world. This can extend to math and music, writing and poetry, databases and map-building. We need webs of interconnection not learning silos. We need to dismantle educational restrictions and boundaries and open up possibilities of learning across ages and institutions.
Indigenous knowledges are key to this. I cannot say this better than Leanne Betasamosake Simpson: “Nishnaabewin … is designed to create self-motivated, self-directed, community-minded, inter-dependent, brilliant, loving citizens, who at their core uphold our ideals around family, community and nationhood by valuing their intelligences, their diversity, their desired and gifts and their lived experiences….we need to create generations of people that are capable of actualizing radical decolonization, diversity, transformation and local economic alternatives to capitalism’ (2014: 23). Education needs to be placed, incorporating the deep knowledge held by those who have dwelled here for generations upon generations, as well as those who have come from distant lands and have knowledge to share. We need to interweave the best of all our understandings of this world so that our children and their children look upon our world with humility and awe and a commitment to well-being for all.
I am interested in creating or working within a living school (O’Brien and Howard 2020), of actively participating in radical decolonization, of promoting creativity and imagination, and, most especially, bringing beauty more fully into this world. I have worked in education for about 25 years, first teaching undergraduate archaeology in the U.K. and Canada and then as a homeschool parent and, most recently, exploring the opportunities of outdoor, place-based education both through working with younger children and pursuing an MEd in Sustainability, Creativity and Innovation. I am most interested in seeing what is possible when we take kids outside and when we bring music into physics and math into art and environmental science. I have always believed that the most important gift a teacher can give to open doors of possibility for her students. I am always excited to find more doors to open!