21 May 2020

It’s been completely quiet here at Earth Lessons given the crisis that is COVID19. We’re fully aware that the majority of local school kids cannot access the internet, and so running online educational story workshops has just not been an option. In time, perhaps during spring, we’ll be able to visit schools again and engage with youth.

Meanwhile, for those who CAN access the world wide web, I’ve just come across a super exciting set of lessons listed out a novel initiative called Earth School.

In response to the crisis of COVID19, “over fifty environmental and education experts have been collaborating to launch The Earth School: 30 adventures for learners of all ages to discover, celebrate, and connect to nature. This global team came together under the guidance and support of TED-Ed and UNEP to design lessons for students of all levels and host Earth School at a time when it matters the most.

These experts have been supported by over 30 organizations including National GeographicWWF, and the BBC who have offered top caliber videos, articles, and interactive resources that will be shared around the world. The initiative launches on Earth Day on April 22 and will conclude on World Environment Day on June 5. Earth School is comprised of daily adventures, or Quests, each organized around the theme: “The Nature of…” While the initiative is hosted online, the Quests are very much designed to encourage young people to connect with nature and their environment.

Covering real world concepts like the t-shirts we wear, the water we drink, the trees in our forests or the food on our plates, each Quest will consist of a discovery video and fun quiz combined with a series of interactive resources – including additional content to watch, read, teach, do, and share, with age-adjusted exercises built into each lesson.”

I’ve only just started viewing some of the videos – and what a wealth of information and creativity is available. ENJOY it!

Frances

POSITIVE IMAGININGS FOR POSITIVE ACTIONS AND OUTCOMES

September 2019

Dear friends,

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it imperative for myself to follow the Extinction Rebellion. It has  felt like one of the few ways I can feel somewhat connected to millions of others amidst these disheartening times.

Tackling Climate Change and facing the future of our planet are terrifying things which will require huge behavioural changes and shifts in mindset. Now more than ever, I believe environmental storytelling can address these issues.

Firstly, telling stories is a great way to get people to listen to what you consider important stuff; to get people to FEEL. During our anti-poaching storytelling in a rural area of Mpumalanga, I found it a little heartwrenching myself, to encounter young children reacting to the death of some of the animals in our story – from snares. It was quite something. The story’s message at this  juncture was loud and clear; the rest of the story lifted from then on.

Telling POSITIVE stories goes further than this and can inspire change.  The media dishes out one negative story after another. How much more  hopeless and helpless can one be made to feel?  Let’s create positive stories about living in a sustainable society. WATCH THIS SPACE.

 

.

Remembering fires & wildlife storytelling from a beautiful garden

I’m sitting writing in full view of a wild garden. Overhanging tree at the front door, furry pussycat on mosaic step, ferns and rocks abound. Jasmin scent permeates the air.  Aside from cheeky monkeys who visited a few weeks ago and ate all fruit in sight, leaving behind a handful of pawpaw seeds on the stairs, it’s quiet and lovely here. I am blessed. To top it, there is a constant cacaphony of bird sounds – rare these days, but typical of older gardens in this country.

Wildfires featured across the eSwatini landscape for most of July and early August. Per usual they were deliberately lit, but due to poor climate conditions, were more damaging than ever. Without rain, the cattle have had to do with very dry grass,yet some green shoots sprouted soon after the fires.

Mid -July, we (i.e. Clford and I),  visited, as Earth Lessons, two Elukwatini schools to do some environmental storytelling, specifically on wildlife protection.  I drove through the border at the height of a bad cold, achy and miserable. Cliford, my facilitator made me laugh, and by the time we arrived, my spirits had lifted considerably.

As for the storytelling,  I heard myself start off with a booming voice on the first day, but clearly struggled to get it out by the second day; it had risen to a high pitch and probably sounded not unlike the hyaena in the story I was telling! Imagine the school kids at both the schools, who’d apparently never seen a white woman, let alone one with long hair and a squeaky voice – How had they experienced me? I wished I knew more SiSwati – Language always connects us better. This was where, Cliford Ndlovu, my super talented facilitator saved the day. I told the story and he brought each character to life in mostly siSwati.

The night in between we stayed in an old dwelling in the depths of a nearby game reserve; it was cold and the generator hummed for a number of hours. We’d been warned not to go out at night as wild animals were known to come onto the stoep. I’d gone straight to bed at 5:30 pm,   and slept soundly. Cliford reported early the next morning, that as he’d stepped outside to switch off the generator, he’d spotted a porcupine.. . At least I hadn’t missed much!

 

Anti-snare collaboration through storytelling.

We’re delighted it’s July. We welcome the month when Earth Lessons’ collaboration with Snare Busters takes off. Snare Busters, the amazing initiative set up by Mpumalanga Leopard Conservation Trust  rescues many ensnared animals. Too many are caught and starve to death. It is horrendous to see. Those that survive are rehabilitated. They get another chance to live.

Next week, Cliford and I will head to the area around Elukwatini and visit some schools there. The story we tell relays a clear message against hunting, and poaching wild animals. More on that next week.

Meanwhile, we are trying to secure some sponsors of food and refreshments for our first Cleanup Campaign to be held in Msunduza next month. The ward councillor will select 50 community members to take part in the cleanup and we will create a core group of five who will be involved in an ongoing cleanup process in the area. We are open to ideas and any sponsors of food, and we have the means to promote your business in a number of ways… .

Winter News from eSwatini!

Dear readers,

Last Saturday marked the first awards of  the Swazi writing competition  run by our Project. The responses were marvellous. I was particularly impressed by the creativity of the poetry. I was pleased that  learners who wrote poems, wrote from the heart; this is what I believe ecological thought is all about. It is not environmental learning alone.  The narrative essays tended to stick to environmental facts, What we want is to hear is about YOUR ideas and possible approaches to finding solutions to the global eco-challenges.  However, this is not criticism, but information about how to respond in future with respect to ecological challenges, and in our case, our writing challenges!

You will be hearing a lot more from eSwatini in future months. Our intention is to focus on creating wonderful interactive learning activities with you for the rest of the year!

Until then,

Frances

Ecoliteracy writing competition under way!

Autumn has begun in Cape Town, and it is lovely. The first rains started about ten days ago, and we hope for more very very soon. April and May have always been the wettest months here in the Western Cape, and we certainly wish for the heavens to open and save the parched flora and fauna.

Our Autumn writing challenge is underway and entries are expected from around South Africa and  Swaziland. The enthusiasm of many  participating learners so warms my heart. The responses I receive encourage me. After all,  I want to contribute towards rekindling the creativity and imagination of young people today. We know it is not an easy task, and hasn’t been for years already, what with the advent of the digital age, the world wide web and, alas, social media. (I, myself, am determined to wean myself off facebook, in a similar way one is likely to give up a drug or sleeping pill). I feel so grateful to have explored my imagination throughout my youth, prompted by endless reading, writing and playing games. This saved me. Many youth today are not so lucky… . And yes, I do feel they miss out. So, here is an opportunity for you to write about another visual image; to use your imagination(s), to state your case, to be creative… . I am truly looking forward to READING YOUR ENTRIES!

Cheers for now,

Frances

 

 

 

 

 

What is EcoLiteracy? What does it mean?

Hello all,

Today I want to clear up some confusion over the meaning of the term  ECOLITERACY. Understandably, it is being misinterpreted as being related to learning to read and write. It IS certainly a type of literacy, but not quite as one imagines. I  personally understand it as being the language of the environment to which we belong, of which we are a part of. It involves us as actors in the environment, and the literacy involves learning about how we can act responsibly, respect everyone and everything within this environment;  i.e. all living beings.

I came across this written by the son of the author of ECO LITERATE; (the author being Daniel Coleman):

My father says:

“to be eco-literate means: the ability to read our environment and understand the consequences of our actions.”

Coleman goes on to say:

“Like learning how to read, it suggests that it is something that can be learned. In fact, ecoliteracy is a made up word. Made up from two words:
Literacy (“the ability to read and write”) and  Eco which stands for both ecology and economy. (Ecology: “the relationship between organisms and their environment”; Economy: “the management of resources, such as money, materials, and labour”. ”

Sir Ken Robinson writes:

“One of the most urgent issues facing humanity is fixing our broken relationship with the earth, on which all life depends. To do that,  we have to think, feel, and act differently.”

 

 

Welcome back to all story lovers!

I am happy to announce that we are growing steadily. Check out the YouTube video clips  entitled Forest Storytelling under PROJECTS. That was  a spontaneous happening with no pre-written script, nor did the participants have any idea what visiting Newlands Forest would entail. You will hear  the loud rustle of the leaves of the trees surrounding us aside from some birds chirping;it actually sounds as if it is water from a nearby river!

Do read up on our second writing challenge and you may submit up to two pieces of creating writing. We would like your writing to take on a story structure, even if it is a poem or lyrics or essay. What do I mean by this? Well, a basic story structure involves a beginning, a middle and an ending, which pulls the everything together in a sort of conclusion. An ending can even be a final sentence summing up the whole point of the piece of writing.

Do write to us about any nature-related thoughts, issues and so on. We would LOVE to have your input! Send all submissions  to ecostorybean@gmail.com or comment on our site under ‘Comments.’ Until next time. GET WRITING!

Frances

 

 

 

 

Blog 20 October 2017

Sir Ken Robinson writes:

“One of the most urgent issues facing humanity is fixing our broken relationship with the earth, on which all life depends. To do that,  we have to think, feel, and act differently.”

 

Hello again,

Welcome back!

Given the positive response to our first writing competition, we announce our second! In fact, the idea is to run writing challenges every 6-8 weeks. Learners have expressed their excitement about the opportunity to express themselves on such related topics. What has been particularly heartening is the feedback from participants regarding the last competition. Individual learners have expressed gratitude at the opportunity to write and enter a competition – thanks goes to the recent birth of the Green Bean Story Project. It is early days. Aside from the enthusiastic response from learners, opportunities for us to grow are gradually expanding. Clearly, I feel confident enough, on behalf of this Project, to  report this. Watch this space please. In the meantime, we offer the second story-related writing competition. Go to our Project page to read the vital instructions of how to successfully participate. We are so looking forward to your entries. GOOD LUCK TO YOU ALL