Struggles are Inevitable in Nature and Action
I thoroughly enjoyed our class’ Skype visit with Collin Harris. He took action learning projects to a huge level by creating a non-profit campaign to encourage children to go outside instead of using so much screen time. He ran from coast to coast in nine months and stopped to talk to schools about his goals and the importance of being outdoors for everyone, especially children who spend too much time inside with technology. He finished his run on October 26, therefore he chose that day to become “Take Me Outside Day” where schools allow their students and staff an hour outdoors. His impact and his story are incredible and extremely inspirational to me; how one person chose to set his whole life aside for this passion of his.
Collin shared his struggles with us, and he faced some big ones. Financial struggle played a huge role and is still impacting him five years later, but he still believes he did the right thing. He told us that he struggles every day in his other environmental goals and he reminded us we will too. Collin reminded us that every day we will be making choices based on our world views that are going to be difficult and that we will sometimes make the “wrong” or less environmentally friendly decisions. But he also reminded us that that is OK. That struggles are inevitable.
He really opened up my eyes and made environmental education and environmental goals more realistic for me. I feel more confident in pursuing my AL project and of embodying it. I feel like making decisions around my consumption of hormone and antibiotic free beef is going to be a journey. A journey of struggles of reminding myself to be conscious and to question the beef products I am consuming. I feel better knowing I will not, and I am not, the only one who will face struggles while trying to achieve my environmental goals.
One more thing that Collin said that really inspired me was that he sees his AL project as a gesture, “a small gesture that can have a huge impact”. He described it in reference to friendship and if your friend is having a bad day and you call them to give them some positivity, this may seem like a small gesture, but it will have a big impact on your friend. That is also how he described “Take Me Outside Day” it is one day, but it is meant as a collective gesture in hopes that people choose to do it more often. He is pushing to create awareness that our youth need more time outside and that learning can be done beyond the classroom. This inspired me and even helped me realize that my project may be focused on my personal goal, and my group’s personal goals, but we could eventually have an impact on our class when we share our AL project. And I have full confidence that I will be sharing my knowledge with my peers and family. So, I too could begin as a small gesture that grows. Probably not nationwide like Collin, but you just never know.
Overall, I am very grateful for Collin’s story. I hope to answer his question someday, “what story are you telling and living to shape your world?” I want to create a story that has meaning to myself, which represents how much I love our environment and shows my dedication to helping sustain natural environments for years to come. I look forward to the struggles that help shape myself and my environmental education journey.
Prairies with Millions of Stories
Growing up and even today my favourite place on this earth remains the same. The feeling of freedom, belonging, and being one with nature all play a huge role as to why I love it so dearly. Since I was just a kid my Dad would bring my brothers and myself up here to check fences, check the cows, inspect the river’s water levels, and to just be part of the environment for a few hours.
The grass is native to the land and does it ever grow, such beautiful shades of yellows, greens, and browns. The cattle graze freely within the 17 quarters that has been declared ours for 28 years, and probably cattle of many other settlers before us. But still, even today, there are remnants of Indigenous life living on our land. We have never moved a single thing, not an arrow head nor a teepee ring. Dad taught us what arrow heads and teepee rings are and how important it is to leave the Indigenous people’s belongings to the land. I always found this fascinating and very respectful of my Dad.
My brothers and I, from a young age, have always found so much comfort, joy, and freedom in riding our horses all across this land. From racing them up and down the coolies in the beautiful fall colours to slowly walking across the flat tops breathing in the fresh smell of sage in the spring. All of it makes me feel part of the wilderness, part of something bigger than just my identity as a student and a girl, and a farm kid.
The Garrett Ranch, our family ranch, holds millions of different stories for hundreds of different people ancient, old, young, and everyone in between. I will never be more thankful for any piece of land than this one, it holds too many memories, too many stories for me to ever let it go. I hope to continue making memories there and I hope to never lose that feeling of being part of something greater. Most of all, I hope to continue learning about the history of our ranch because I now realize how important that really is to the way the wilderness was ultimately shaped.
Wilderness Beyond Our Senses
On a beautiful spring day my middle school class was given the opportunity to take a trip to Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills. The buildings and the people looked authentic and the atmosphere felt like we were taken back to the many years ago that the Fort was still occupied. This trip was not just a history lesson about the Cypress Hills land, the Aboriginal peoples who lived there and the settlers who invaded. Walking through the Fort was almost like reliving reality, it was learning about the land and recognizing the thousands of Aboriginal peoples who died trying to protect their Creator’s land from settlers. It was incredibly surreal, even for me as a middle school student.
I feel like that fieldtrip was not a typical canoe pedagogy, because we were given the opportunity to discuss and learn about the land and the peoples who had lived there. Newberry states, “I believe that much canoe pedagogy similarly paints scenic and inspiring pictures for students.” (p 42). And I believe that we did not just simply stare at the scenery, feel the crisp water, and breathe in the clean air, rather we became more connected and educated about the land around us that day. Newberry also talks about how outdoor education needs to become more complex and that we should talk about ethnicity and I believe that my teacher and the people at Fort Walsh accomplished this that day. It would be a field trip I would love to take my students on someday.
During the Treaty Ed Camp we attended I had the pleasure of listening to Elder Starblanket. I listened as he passionately discussed Fort Qu’Appelle and the history of his people there. He discussed some other historical events too which have hindered his people. I found this fascinating and felt the lecture on a whole new level, hearing it from someone who has lived it and felt it himself. The girl helping with this station discussed after, an event in Fort Qu’Appelle that is a truly engaging learning experience for people of all ages. She highly recommended school trips to Fort Qu’Appelle, especially at this time to truly learn the complexity of Treaty 4 and the peoples before settlers came. I thought that between her and Elder Starblanket they are really pushing towards Newberry’s belief that EE and Outdoor Ed need to become more complex and need to open wounds and the hard truth about what has been done to make our environment how it is today.
Canadian wilderness now has a more complex and diverse meaning to me than just animals, trees and dirt. Our wilderness needs to be discussed in more depth, we need to start thinking critically about why the land we are on is what it is. We need to talk about how we have shaped the wilderness, how we have influenced it compared to people many years before us. I think like Newberry, Elder Starblanket, the other guest speaker, and even the people at Fort Walsh have done an excellent job bringing forward these complexities and deeper thoughts about wilderness and the land we live on. I hope in the future I can open the same doors for my students and that they will begin to see the wilderness as more than just flowers, grass, rivers, and animals. But rather they will talk about why and how the wilderness has been shaped.