Together with Emma, our Gardens and Community Facilitator, as part of our Mprof program, I have recently been exploring what we at Global Generation educationally offer children and young people.
As an independent education body, Global Generation aims to provide education that is different and ‘special.’ Something that children and young people would otherwise not gain in traditional schooling. If we do offer something that is ‘special’ or different, what is it? In our time rife with depression amongst teenagers, young people committing suicide, violence in society, and environmental degradation, what could be more important than asking central questions about the education we are providing for our young? As the old adage says (and is it not true?) - ‘children are our future.’
One grey and cloudy afternoon, Emma and I walked along the South Bank and headed for a café. Once inside the large high-ceilinged room we sat down, and with drinks in hand, explored what it is that we offer in our education programs. What emerged was that one of the central elements of our approach is that children and young people glimpse that they are ‘not separate from nature.’ Nature here refers to not just the grass, plants, trees, and animals, but also to the furthest reaches of the stars, galaxies, and the cosmos. In order to accomplish this, we use a whole range of activities including storytelling, creative writing, visual arts, gardening, cooking, silence and stillness, knowledge sharing, and reflection. It seems that by providing a mix of these activities, children and young people really engage wholeheartedly and learn in different ways to explore how they are implicitly connected to nature.
At Global Generation we have an underlying philosophy that what we call: ‘I, We and the Planet,’ and this informs our work. This means that we aim to develop a deeper sense of ‘I,’ a deeper sense of ‘We’ and to make positive changes in the environment. Perhaps, if children and young people get a tangible sense that they are ‘not separate from nature,’ then they will inherently be aligning themselves with the core aims of ‘I, We and the Planet?’
Last weekend, I gave a presentation to one of our funders and was delighted by their positive response. The rest of the audience also greatly appreciated it. For parts of the presentation, I played audio recordings and a short video clip of the students speaking, and whenever they spoke or I read their words, the audience applauded. It was apparent that the adult listeners loved hearing young people express their own understanding of the work they had produced with us. Their expressions each had something that I can only describe as a ‘not separate from nature’ quality about them. In this case, they were speaking about feeling that they were not separate to the universe, that we are all interconnected and that the universe in its own way has miraculously produced life, against all odds. Hearing young people expressing all of this, was for many, very moving.