30 SES 01 A, Outdoor education and learning
Wild Pedagogies began as a graduate course at Lakehead University in Western Canada in 2012 and has steadily evolved through small conferences—notably, the 2014 canoe-based Floating Colloquium on the Yukon River and the 2016 backcountry-based Tetrahedron Dialogues on the westcoast of British Columbia—into a pedagogical movement to challenge and rethink the domestication of wilderness, education and human in the Anthropocene. The 2017 Wild Pedagogies gathering assembled a briny pod of international scholars on a sailboat off the west coast of Scotland for a Sailing Colloquium, followed by a writing retreat to compose a manuscript inspired by dialogue between human and other-than-human interlocutors. The session will include editors and contributors of the recently published book Wild Pedagogies: Touchstones for Re-Negotiating Education and the Environment in the Anthropocene (2018) which emerged from this most recent gathering.
These scholastic experiments are, in short, aimed at re-wilding education and research such that we learn to recognize and listen to the “voice(s)” of places and other-than-human beings. Re-wilding education thus requires learning directly from place and landscape in an immersive way. Changing thinking around education and research along these lines will require, at the least, making the walls around modern western education more permeable, and in some cases, removing them all together. The alternative is to double down on the walls, literally and figuratively. We have seen this during the past couple of decades taking the form of “academic preparation,” that is, zealous demands for accountability; narrowly restrictive standards of practice; and, fanciful notions of getting “back to the basics.”
Changing relationships with ecology and being in the world differently entails far more than using different kinds of light bulbs. Something more fundamental must be disrupted and such a disruption will not be achieved through appeals to rationality, duties, or facts alone. It is more likely that changing relationships will require learning through active engagement with the natural world. The return could be rich—for example, increased well-being, decreased alienation, and an expanded range of what it means to be human. Doing things differently will mean being different in our orientations towards nature, our language about nature, and our responsibilities with nature. This suggests that as ecological education researchers, we are tasked with “re-negotiating” what it means to be human and a citizen in a more-than-human world. Big changes are needed and with big changes bold educational approaches are required.
Wild Pedagogies is, in part, also a response to certain interpretations of the Anthropocene as the advent of a “post-wild” world under the auspices of human hegemony. In this session, we will briefly discuss the theoretical roots and some of the contentious terminology employed, but more to the point, we will reflect on the research approach, conference structure and key inquires of Wild Pedagogies to date. For example, we will discuss the rationale and results of not bringing prepared presentations and being scheduled into time slots in order to make space for novel kinds of dialogue and eco-social understandings. We will also address additional changes to the conventional conference format including, how to mitigate the phenomenon of “losing momentum” with retreats, the promise and perils of collaborative writing, and some of the challenges, both conceptual and practice-based, with recognizing and incorporating the “voice(s)” of place and/or other-than-human beings in and as research. The session will conclude with some speculation and group discussion on what it means to think about and conduct environmental education in a more-than-human world with “nature-as-co-researcher.”
The first Wild Pedagogies colloquium was canoe-based and hosted on the Yukon River in 2014. It was premised on the idea that in order to research alternative relationships with place we needed to conduct ourselves differently and be immersed in wild places. This initial effort revealed some interesting teachings. While the group was immersed in a relatively wild place, in some ways, the colloquium was still structured like a traditional conference. In particular, presentations were organized in a more-or-less predetermined sequence, and in most instances, they were not particularly responsive to the places where they were delivered. Being in a canoe added additional elements to the work—the content and the venue were better aligned, but in most instances, actual voices from the land were not recognized in the presentations and did not significantly shape the nature of the colloquium. This realization provoked the question: Could a colloquium be structured in a way that “voices” from the land and its more-than-human beings were better heard, and then play an active role in informing and deepening discussions? Deliberations about past colloquia gave rise to four important themes in the planning the 2017 gathering. First, we wanted to find a shared project that allowed conversations to build, and that could actively press against the isolationist tendencies of scholarship. If this colloquium was to result in a collaborative book project—how were we to write it? What processes could lead the collaboration required to give “wild pedagogies” some depth and coherence? Second, enabling new relations with place would need to begin by recognizing other-than-human agency and nature as co-teacher or co-researcher. This would require deliberate daily activities during the colloquium and a move away from the human-centredness of most scholarly activities. Achieving the second theme could be more easily achieved by, third, placing the colloquium in a relatively wild place, far beyond the typical conference centre. This could allow our group to immerse themselves in a landscape and alter the dynamics between humans and the world. Fourth, this colloquium needed to be located some place where participants could be inspired to interrogate their own cultural norms, as colloquium participants were all privileged professionals and scholars from industrialized western countries. Ideally this would be a place that had already undergone a critical conversation within the context of such norms.
The research and 2017 colloquium resulted in the articulation of six touchstones for educators interested in enacting wild pedagogies. Each touchstone is developed in detail in the paper. Touchstone 1: Nature as Co-Teacher Touchstone 2: Complexity, the Unknown, and Spontaneity Touchstone 3: Locating the Wild Touchstone 4: Time and Practice Touchstone 5: Socio-Cultural Change Touchstone 6: Building Alliances and the Human Community If we take the touchstones for wild pedagogies seriously, then what implications might they have not only for educators but also for researchers? It is a question that has been bubbling for a while and in some ways wild pedagogies in Scotland was a tentative response. We say tentative because it is clear to us that we still have a long way to go in terms of listening to and understanding the voices and research agendas of more-than-human others, and in representing the results in genuine, just, and nuanced ways. For wild pedagogies, getting outside the cultural norms of public education is important. But research has norms too. In fact much of what is considered research in universities appears grounded in the same norms that created public education and pushed us into the Anthropocene. So, it follows that there might be something called “wild researches” and wild researchers. They, too, should be asked to push against troublesome cultural norms, become activists, build rich communities, and engage with the natural world in different ways. But we might also be asked to shift ourselves, our questions, and our methods away from the centre of contemporary research. In keeping with wild pedagogies, wild researches could consider research subjects more as partners not objects and hence, come to practice, present, and understand research differently.
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