As a child, my father often led me on an adventure in our backyard. On warm, summer days we would lay prone in the spiky grass of our lawn and inhale the sweet, humid smell of the earth.
We would next turn our eyes downwards into the grass to see what we could. Like a camera whose lens takes in more and more detail as it extends towards its focal object, so too did our eyes adjust. Gradually, the world above became less of our concern as we looked for surprises in the world beneath us.
Our eyes first met the brilliant yellow sunbursts of dandelion flowers, and their sisters’ ornate globes of seeds ready for dispersal. Then the feathery and torn blades of grass, the rich green of their stems. Below that, mounds of earthworm castings, wormholes, and sometimes the worms themselves – quiet and slippery as they undulated along in compressed coils, springing slowly forward. We saw ants, big and small, carrying food to their young and trash from their nests, as well as the occasional robin’s egg shell, lodged between the grassy stems and partly filled with dew.
This was a world unknown to me, but one in which I came to love because of its hidden richness and secret activity. Down there, in the grass and truly close to nature, I could feel the soil breathing and imagined the plants growing. I embraced the microcosm beneath my gaze for the connections it highlighted; how there was no part that I witnessed that was not unrelated to the whole.
Our Planet, Our Home: A Gaian Learning Material by Philip Snow Gang and Marsha Snow Morgan is a work that explores the relationships found between all actors in this cosmological dance. Drawing upon ecological principles and systems theory, participants use arrows to make unique and authentic connections between the pictures provided:
- a Spiral Galaxy
- the Sun
- the Earth
- images symbolizing the Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Lithosphere and Biosphere - the Biogeological cycle
- the Five Kingdoms (Bacteria, Protoctista, Fungi, Plantae and Animalia)
- an image symbolizing Humans
- and seven cards representing aspects of Human Activity (Transportation,
Shelter, Clothing. Communication, Food, Play, and Love).
On a rug or tabletop with plenty of space, children and adults alike can collaborate to see how the components relate to the each other. It is a dynamic activity, filled with excited and spontaneous discussions as realizations are made and connections explored.
This is not a prescriptive work, but one that allows for wonderment and curiosity to be the drivers. There is room for numerous repetitions, each with its own new set of discoveries.
Our Planet, Our Home suggests a holistic approach to science education, one that emphasizes how things are related and not concepts held exclusively in isolation. It is a powerful work, one that asks us to open our eyes and minds to new connections and novel possibilities.
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