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In this TED talk, Benjamin Zander discusses having the ability to reach those around us, in particular with classical music.  He states that “everyone loves classical music, they just haven’t discovered it yet”.  This is a wonderful motto that we as teachers may take as inspiration into our classrooms.  Everyone loves art, music, literature…. they just haven’t discovered it yet.  It is our jobs as educators to awaken that interest that lays within each of our students, and turn it into a life long love.

Zander states that “it is the characteristic of a leader to not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he is leading to realize whatever it is he is leading”.  As teachers, we have to have the confidence and assurance that what we are teaching is valuable and has meaning to our students.  With guidance and passion for our craft, we can turn skeptics into believers.

Zander also states “who am I being that my children’s eyes are  not shining?”  When a child’s eyes are shining, they are realizing what it is that we are trying to lead; they are inheriting something bigger than ourselves.

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Imagination

The assignment for my computers class was to take an image and combine it with inspirational text.  The quote is by George Scialabba, an American book critic, and the photograph was taken from online, originally by a mother who photographed her young son as he explored one rainy afternoon.

 

This image may sum up perfectly one of the main reasons I want to become a teacher!!  One of my biggest fears is to end up in a cubicle where ‘creativity’ is expected, yet rarely rewarded. My past experiences with certain jobs is that creativity is never truly wanted or appreciated, rather, those who conform to company rules and expectations are highly valued.  However, this is not the case with teachers. The success of our careers largely depends on our ability to think outside of the box; as our students come in all shapes and sizes, rarely does the square peg fit in the round hole.  Never will I be placed in the solitary confinement of a cubicle; I will be free to interact and engage those around me in the pursuit of self discovery and expression 🙂

This video facetiously discusses the class warfare that is taking place in the United States, and some solutions that have been proposed.  One absurd solution was to cut the salary of teachers as they work shorter days and have their summers off, while passing over more obvious solutions of targeting banks and corporations in the top 2 earnings percentile.  Overall, the video takes a humorous look at some of the flaws and solutions of corporate America.  As a teacher, it makes me laugh that sacrificing eduction and the funding that aids it would be suggested as a reasonable means to boosting the economy.  Get real!

http://watch.thecomedynetwork.ca/#clip425207

So, my latest endeavor as a student/teacher comes from my pre-internship at F.W. Johnson Collegiate in Regina.  I am creating a mural with my grade 12 class in the education student’s lounge at the University of Regina.  The purpose of this assignment being to show young adults the importance of the arts in the community, and how they as artist’s have a role within society.  The theme of the mural is ‘Accept the Challenge’, a fitting subject for students and future teachers alike.

As part of the assignment, students were asked to reflect on what challenges they are facing as young adults about to graduate, taking the next step on the path of life.  Where are they going next?  Is it university, or do they have plans to travel or stay and work?  Perhaps the challenge is the unknown….

Some of the deeper themes explored when asked what ‘accept the challenge’ meant were life and death, religion, and self exploration.  One of my students is soon to be a mother, continuously thinking of the challenges that lay ahead.  Another student has the goal of becoming a health care worker, and considers the reality of illness and the fragility of life with the patients she will be caring for.  What does ‘accept the challenge’ mean to her?

Once students considered their personal challenges, they were asked to draw an image symbolizing it in the style of author and illustrator, Leah Dorion.  In by doing so, the students will be creating a unified and cohesive image, combining several unique experiences to a single theme.

Next class we will be assembling the images to create a rough draft for the final work, and choosing a colour palette.

On January 25, 2011, the Egyptian revolution took place following a popular uprising which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience, labor strikes and violent clashes between protesters.  The people of Egypt sought to overthrow the long time Tunisian president Hosni Mubarak, and on February 11, 2011, he resigned.

What role did technology play in the Egyptian uprising?  It was reported that one of the catalysts for the protests was the brutal murder of Khaled Mohamed Saeed by Egyptian police.  Shortly after Saeed’s murder, the Facebook group “we are all Khaled Saeed” was created and hundreds of thousands joined in protest, bringing international awareness to the spreading discontent of the Egyptian people.  Another major online contribution included a video created by Asmaa Mahfouz calling for the people of Egypt to join her in protest over the dictatorship of the government and support basic human rights on January 25th.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgjIgMdsEuk

During the weeks of protest, many videos, blogs and tweets were posted to the internet, and on January 27th, Egypt fell off the internet and international connections were cut by order of the government.  As reaction to this, many searched for ways to remain internationally connected, and a “20 Ways to Circumvent the Egyptian’s Government’s Internet Block” was created.

Technology plays a vital role in sharing a collective vision.  In the age of technology, YouTube and Facebook bring a nation of people together, give them a voice, and help organize people to fight for the basic human rights that we are all entitled to.  The power of one voice spreads, the fire ignited, and the winds of change begin to blow.

Technology and the “Nature Deficit Disorder”

Nature Deficit Disorder is a term coined by Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods”.  He discusses the issue that more children are spending their time indoors immersed in technology combined with the fact that an increasing amount of parents fear “stranger danger”.

Contrary to this belief is the biophilia hypothesis, by Edward O Wilson, which suggests that humans have an instinctive draw towards nature and life systems and take steps to spend more time out doors. 

I think that both Wilson and Louv make interesting points in the role that technology plays with human interaction in nature.  Perhaps it comes back to the age old arguement of Nature vs. Nurture.  While on one hand Wilson suggests that it is instinct for humans to have a connection to the environment, I would have to disagree.  Perhaps it’s a cultural way of living that has one engaged or disengaged with the land.  For example, my roommate Resty, 24, who lived in the Philipinnes until he was 19 before moving to Canada in 2004. Resty and I have had on several occasions the discussion that he spends all of his time in both summer and winter in his room playing video games.  For someone like myself, who grew up at the cabin in the Ontario Whitesheild, this blows my mind.  Resty argues that growing up in the Philipinnes he never gained a sense of appreciation for nature, added to the fact he is an engineer, his interests lay not in trees and rocks, but in metal and design.  So does culture and environment have more of a role to play in an individuals “instictive draw towards nature”?  I would venture to say yes. 

Louv states that some of the effects of Nature Deficit Disorder are obesity, attention disorders and depression.  According to Stop Childhood Obesity, between 16 and 33 percent of adolescents are obese in the United States due to poor diet and lack of exercise.  The estimated cost to society for obesity is US$100 billion and responsible for 300,000 deaths per year. Overweight children are likely to become overweight adults unless they change their lifestyle. Approximately 9 million children over the age of 6 are considered obese.  But can all of this be attributed to technology alone?  There has to be a combination of factors.

   I think that today’s parent not only have anxiety to “stranger danger”, but are also suffering from a modern parent complex.  Today’s parent is so over-run with the demands of work, children, chores, hobbies, aging parents, and whatever else is being thrown their way, that perhaps it is easier to raise the children within the house hold, rather than outside of it.  For some parents, technology becomes a secondary device in raising the children.  Sit the kids down in front of the t.v. and buy yourself some quite time.  Let the kids play video games, and you know exactly where they are and what they are doing.  Many gaming companies advertise the benefits of learning games, but do they match the benefits of children learning and exploring for themselves outdoors?  Do they stimulate the senses and the imagination the same way as a child running, playing, touching, smelling, seeing and experiencing? 

Parents also lead by example.  It’s very hard for a child to be motivated to go outside and play when mum or dad is sitting infront of the computer or television as well.  Parents must lead by example and begin to live healthy and active lifestyles.  If parents have anxiety to  “stanger danger”, then they should be outdoors with their children to ensure their safety, or look into alternative means such as organized sports, wilderness adventure camps, or playmates who utilize the great outdoors in their playtime adventures.

According to BBC News Health, 2 hours of screen time a day is a sensible guidline for children in combination with at least one hour of exercise.  A study conducted at the University of Bristol found that children who spent more than 2 hours infront of the television or computer had an increased risk to psychological difficulties, a failure to meet physical activity guidelines, and problems with peers. 

According to White Hutchinson Leisure and Learning Group in their article “Interaction with Nature During the Middle Years: It’s Importance to Children’t Development and Nature’s Future” By Randy White, the importance of nature to a child’s development includes:

  • Children with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are better able to concentrate after contact with nature (Taylor 2001).
  • Children with views of and contact with nature score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline. (Wells 2000, Taylor 2002). 
  • Children who play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often (Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft 2001).
  • When children play in natural environments, their play is more diverse with imaginative and creative play that fosters language and collaborative skills (Moore & Wong 1997, Taylor, et al. 1998, Fjortoft 2000). 
  • Exposure to natural environments improves children’s cognitive development by improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills (Pyle 2002).
  • Nature buffers the impact of life stress on children and helps them deal with adversity.  The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits (Wells 2003).
  • Play in a diverse natural environment reduces or eliminates bullying (Malone & Tranter 2003). 
  • Nature helps children develop powers of observation and creativity and instills a sense of peace and being at one with the world (Crain 2001).
  • Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder (Cobb 1977, Louv 1991).  Wonder is an important motivator for life long learning (Wilson 1997).
  • Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other (Moore 1996).
  • A decrease in children’s time spent outdoors is contributing to an increase of children’s myopia in developed countries (Nowak 2004).
  • Natural environments stimulate social interaction between children (Moore 1986, Bixler, Floyd & Hammutt 2002).
  • Outdoor environments are important to children’s development of independence and autonomy (Bartlett 1996).

Nature seems to have won the day!  Perhaps I am a little biased my arguement towards nature, having grown up at the lake and camping, but you just can’t argue with the facts.  Nature and its benefits in metacognition, peer relations and social interaction, personal development and independance, fitness, balance, agility, concentration and self discipline can’t be matched.  Perhaps more outdoor class time should be called for!