I recently attended an interactive, ecologically oriented workshop on strategies for teaching K-12 curriculum that will engage student’s imaginations in supporting the development of their ecological understanding. I am in the process of developing an art based workshop catering to kids’ imaginations, my love of the outdoors and my appreciation for nature, and this served as inspiration.

Students benefit greatly from the outdoors, and I feel it is an integral component of any curriculum and learning opportunity. Although the classroom has its purpose, the outdoors is an opportunity for experiential real world learning, with many benefits to one’s health and well-being.

My first introduction to ecological art was by an Art 12 classroom assignment, where students went outside the school on school grounds, and created amazing all natural environmental creations that illustrated their immense creativity and the impermanence of nature. Artworks were photographed to create a still life capture of the student’s work. The next day, the wind and rain blew the art away, in an act of creation and destruction, a testament nature’s awe inspiring power.

As I learned during this workshop, imagination lies at the heart of all learning, and this involves the use of feeling, activeness and place; tapping into imagination to activate emotion, using the body to physically navigate in a learning environment that is memorable and meaningful.

The best lessons to engage students may begin with a narrative format to shape the lesson so that the experience is one of story-telling – in making kids aware of their ecological footprint and in nurturing respect for the environment in an oral manner, we can integrate lessons through role play, drama and games.

We are not just teachers; we are reporters too, inspiring kids to develop an emotional connection to the subject matter. We can encourage students to experience emotional connections by outlining the significance of the topic through play and stories. This workshop involved participants getting outdoors in nature, playing games and engaging in ecological art exercises embracing creativity and an inner sense of adventure. This aspect of play is helpful for creating a healing environment much like that created in Expressive arts therapy – evoking positive feelings or greater awareness for personal development and growth.

For more information on imaginative education, visit http://ierg.ca/.