Written Oct 24, 2014
by Lucie Bardos (MRP intern)
A couple of week
With the soft-spoken, kind, and confident voice of one who has been working in his field for over 25 years, Jon spoke about the roots of what he calls “Coyote Mentoring”. Coyotes are tricksters, he says, they hide profound teachings of nature connection and leadership behind play and exploration. The only way that children can have “eyes that sparkle” – that is, glow with enthusiasm about life, family, nature and discovery is if we learn to walk that fine line between holding on and letting go. All too often we hold on far too much. Jon spoke about how adults need to learn to trust each other and let go of the idea that the nuclear family is enough to satisfy every child’s need for mentorship and support; all children need aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas and cousins. This doesn’t mean they need to be blood relatives, simply trusted fellow humans that are physically and spiritually present. Also, “helicopter parenting” is a big no no. Yes, children require leadership and some structure as well, but children absolutely needunstructured playtime in nature in order to tune into their own ways of connecting with the world and to establish their own dialogue with objects and beings they interact and come into contact with.
One inspiring example of these teachings being put into practice is the Mother Earth School in Portland Oregon. A very interesting podcast interview with founder Kelly Hogan can be found here. Mother Earth School is an 8-Shields-based outdoor education school, which takes place on a permaculture demonstration site with access to zone 5 forest wilderness. What I particularly liked about Kelly’s approach is the focus on embodied storytelling. As a mentor and educator Kelly uses her creativity to tell stories, which hold within them specific lessons and techniques that we can learn from nature; such as “dear ears”, “owl eyes”, “breeze whispers”, and “fox walk”. She incorporates these first into the stories she tells her students and later into forest outings based on the stories, so that children can embody and put into practice the techniques they heard about. This engages their imagination and helps create what she calls a “balanced sensory experience” which equips young people to deal in a more peaceful, holistic and understanding way with the imbalances facing the world, such as climate change and ecological degradation.
When Kelly Hogan gets asked what she wants the children to leave her program knowing, she replies: “I want them to know that they have the power to heal; to heal themselves, and to heal each other, and to heal the world…. we don’ t talk about how big and scary the world is, we talk about how little and beautiful the world is.” To me, this is a take home foundational statement for curriculum builders; it is an approach that should be cultivated as being empowering for youth. The truth is that there are a lot of big and scary things going on in the world, but if those future stewards of the Earth have a personal intimate connection with nature and know that they have the power to heal and to make a difference, then we will have done our job.
About the author: Hello all! My name is Lucie and I’m so happy to be partnering with Paul from Many Rivers Permaculture for this internship. I am currently working on completing my masters degree in Human Ecology: Culture, Power and Sustainability from Lund University in Sweden. We are studying global flows of energy and power and how these large scale elements interact with smaller, local scale communities of both people and non-human nature. My personal interests lie within permaculture (both ecological and social) and transitioning to viably sustainable and abundance-based paradigms and systems. I think that Guelph is a great place to be for someone with my interests thanks to its vibrant transition towns initiative and its many organizations and individuals committed to sustainable living. I can’t wait to write about the exciting projects that Many Rivers Permaculture is involved in and communicating these stories through their blog