NATURE BASED EDUCATION WORKSHOP CHINA

CHINA

Our Nature Based Education Workshop last June in China was a wonderful ‘hands-on’ and fun exploration of the value of creating meaningful connections with the natural world.

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To open the Nature Based Education Workshop in China 30 adults gathered around a fire, waiting our ” fear ” of nature and putting it in the fire to burn it with a commitment to work on overcoming that fear. Feeding the fire, smelling the smoke, and then leaping over the fire were all “warm ups” to the warm ups of playing games with stones and pine cones all the way to the 2nd activiity at the fish pond.

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“Goethean observation”, or” Nature based sense impression meditation” at the Fish Pond. Workshop participants drew  something that “drew them in” :what  they saw or a representation by making pictures.

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Gathering on the lawn area, we explored WHY would we make an effort to learn from nature & what are the gifts that nature has for our own development? What is “nature deficit “and what are the resulting illnesses and cures?

We examined items from nature like the Pine cone and witnessed the “sacred Geometry ” that actually forms it in its own archetypal way. ie Fibonacci Principle that is present in all these “flowers, forms of nature that grow as a “spiral.” We then sang “From you I receive to you I give, together we share by this we live. ”

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We created a sculpture from Bamboo roots. Sandra told a story of the Nature spirits awaiting in the spruce and bamboo forest beside.

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We practiced “playing ” in the forest, individually and together.

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We explored the vegetable garden and  then the fruit orchard and chicken and goose pens. Some people climbed the fruit trees, others held or stroked a chicken for the very first time.The point was for adults to experience what children do when they are allowed to climb a tree or explore in the woods. HOw do We develop as individuals by spending time alone in nature. How do we develop respect for the earth and plant and animal kingdoms.

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We made a merry parade to the pipe  music of the  XIAO instrument played by a workshop participant.Down the bamboo  hill to the farm  like panda bears we slipped and slid. The canola stalks were stacked and drying on tarpaulins. Participants jumped on the stalks and laid on the stalks and the seeds poured out of their casing. Yes the farmers were helped that day. The seeds would be processed in to the oil used for the kitchen’s cooking of the year. (100 people a day)

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Our closing circle people shared their learnings and the WONDER of the day. “Wo de tien a” was the expression of the day” as we marvelled in the glory that nature presents us if we only look and listen and feel and receive in gratitude it’s gifts. Of course “what can I do” as a willing participant in supporting nature  leads to the answer: appreciate nature and ike others to it, especially the children; protect it, the land, the water, the air and plants and animals, get involved in your local communities so that these resources ARe available to your children to grow in. BE AMBASSADORE to NAUtRE. For NAture.

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WEEPING WILLOWS & GOLDEN CANOLA: CHINA REPORT

CHINA

After many ‘mini’ updates from the land of weeping willows and golden canola in my current placement at Tienfu Waldorf Steiner School I thought it was high time for a complete report on just what I’m up to over here in China!

Tienfu Forest Farm (Waldorf) is just outside Chengdu in Southwest China. It is spring time now and the signature Weeping Willows are doing just that. Their long leaves are coming down in long “willowy” branches to touch the ground. There is a spring song of a woman letting down her hair, and her tears (the spring rain) runs down her hair to join the earth: heaven to earth, and the tears fertilize the earth with her love.

It is a fascinating opportunity to be in this budding school: one full kindy, 1 small mixed ages one, a parent child group; bustling parent education groups and CLasses 7,8,9 “on campus” with primary to come in the new school year in September 2015.

My job is specifically to work with the Early Childhood in all respects. Observing, reflecting, mentoring and “setting an example” I am doing while enjoying the children, teachers and parents too.

Biodynamic Agriculture teaching is also my mandate. I have the pleasure of creating many gardening opportunities with children and teachers, children and parents, just parents, office staff and teachers, and Class 9 youth and their Farmer teacher too.

It is exciting to be learning about the soil and rock here on this hilly spruce, bamboo and fruit tree property. There are fields of Canola, potatoes, broad beans, snow peas, cabbage, lettuce, eggplant and peanuts too.

Many of the adults I work with have come from rural lives but have never “worked the land” themselves. Land is not available for “purchase” in China, only for development so much rural land becomes HIGH RISES and supportive industry.

As in all Waldorf kindergartens there is an emphasis on “meaningful work” in addition to lots of Free Play time. These children are busy cleaning tables and chairs and dishes and floors and making food too. The school kitchen provides the rice, vegetables and soup daily, but the children prepare their snacks of fruit and nuts and “do cooking” one day a week too.

A particular highlight of my time here is working on festivals within this very different cultural context to which I am used to.  The ancient Chinese festival of The Sweeping of the Tombs coincided with the western Easter festival and I had much fun with the teachers here finding the similarities between the deeper meanings of each one. The story I told to the 200 parents and children present before the Easter Egg hunt was called The Easter Hare Legacy for Tienfu Forest School.

I’ll continue to post more updates and images as they come from my very special time over here in China.

PUPPET SHOW IN CHINA

CHINA

Creating a story to introduce the “wednesday parent and kindy children’ s working in the garden theme” in Tienfu Waldorf Forest School, China.

The story was of “Lily” who is sleeping in the vegetable garden with her mum and baby Stella. She awakes and kisses her mum and sister and then touches the leaves of the lettuce and smells the Chinese onion flowers. She and her family walk past the root vegetable and seed storage of the year before’s crops and then arrive at the garden of many coloured flowers. She climbs up the flowers and smells and plays with them, then she slides down and begins to dig in the garden so she can plant her seeds. The song she sings is one Sandra wrote

“Seed seed tiny seed
in mother earth all cozy indeed,
Seed seed tiny seed :
root and stem you will need,
then 2 leaves and you are freed;
seed seed tiny seed:
oh and a blossom how beautiful indeed!”

Everyone then received a seed and the children and families paraded to the garden to dig in the plots the school has gifted the families to use as many of them live in towering apartment blocks.

COMPOSTING IN CHINA

CHINA

2015 is United Nations “YEAR of the Soil”. We are joining the world effort by making healthy compost with which to aerate and nourish the existing red clay, orange clay and grey clay that forms the basis of Tienfu ( Forest in Heaven: Tien is ” heaven” fu is “forest”) in Sichuan province, south west China.

Last week our agriculture group cleared an “island” of plastic rubbish from its permanent vortex in the grey stream that runs through the property. (YES a microcosm of that Pacific Ocean Island of floating world rubble.)

Spruce and bamboo forests rim the fruit tree orchards and vegetable gardens on this forested mountain that is close to the sky. Discovering multitudes of golden stones and white quartz rimmed grey rocks remind us that this is ancient land. We taste the resins from the Spruce and Fruit trees as it drips in this Spring tide. Perhaps farmers hundreds of years from now will dig up crystalised stones formed from liquids of today.

SWEEPING OF THE TOMB FESTIVAL IN CHINA

CHINA

This Easter Sandra took part in the ancient Chinese festival of Qing Ming or ‘Sweeping of the Tomb’ where she also discovered a surprising and ancient appearance of the egg! Sandra was asked as a “resident” festival creator, Waldorf educator, community developer and storyteller to support an  “EASTER Egg Hunt ” component of the Tomb Sweeping Festival and read more to hear her special Easter Story especially written for this Chinese Festival.

Bunny Sandra

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Tomb sweeping has been included in the Qing Ming (said Sheee ming) festival for more than 2000 years. AND the EGGS were also part of festivities. They were put at the top of a stream and the lucky lovers who caught an egg at the bottom of the stream would have good luck in reproducing children. However, it seems most Chinese don’t know about this and so though BEAUTIFUL hand painted eggs are sold in their artisan markets, the “egg practise” is no longer included in the “Tomb Sweeping” festivities. With all this in mind, Sandra created the following story to support the significance of the HARE as the deliverer of eggs in the Christian tradition. Of course the HARE is also revered by Buddhists for the ability to self sacrifice for others. The wisdom of the source of fertility which is celebrated in “honouring what has past that now functions as good fertiliser for what is to be born under the potent light and nourishing forces of moon and sun in cycling together. Look to the skies for wisdom of earth.  

 
In her story she relays that when the hands are held together as in prayer,  it is the shape of the egg and grain and budding leaf or blossom. Thus the two pillars of “Gratitude and Love” are emblazened in the deed of the HARE’s  gifting  of eggs.  They are symbolically and true-ly,  full of the golden sun held in the white of the moon. 

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