- Welcome Message (from Dr. Mark Fettes, Scientific Director, CIRCE)
- Upcoming Events
- A few of CIRCE’s Events & Adventures (October 2020 – February 2021)
- CIRCE’s Academic Council
- CIRCE International (October 2020 – February 2021)
- Learning in Depth
- Learn More & Participate
- Support CIRCE
Welcome Message from Dr. Mark Fettes, Scientific Director, CIRCE
So here we are, a year on from the start of the pandemic, and despite the rollout of vaccines, educators around the world are still facing many challenges. It was inspiring for me, nonetheless, to work this term with a group of students in SFU’s teacher education program who had chosen to focus on imaginative education. Even though all of our classes together were online, they demonstrated remarkable levels of enthusiasm, dedication and creativity. Now they are venturing out into schools for their first session of practice teaching — BC has managed to keep schools open since this school year began in September, though parents have the option of enrolling their students in online or blended programs if they wish to keep them home — and I was moved by their courage and conviction that this was still the right career for them, in the face of unparalleled uncertainty, risk and discomfort.
So it is with CIRCE members from here in Vancouver, across Canada and around the world, as this edition of Imagination Matters shows. Imagination is a quality often associated with resilience, and our community is demonstrating both of these in spades! It’s nice, too, to see some of this work recognized by other organizations, as in the hundrED Award for Gillian Judson’s Walking Curriculum that you can read about below. In my work with BC teachers I have often encountered enthusiastic mentions of the Walking Curriculum, including many who have had no other contact with imaginative education. The lesson? It’s what we do with imagination that can make the biggest difference. I hope that all of you, our readers, will find inspiration in this issue to take your work with imagination into areas that feel unfamiliar, exciting, risky, challenging… and worthwhile. Let us know about your adventures, and the rewards they bring for you and others, even in these unusual and difficult times.
Scientific Director, CIRCE
#imaginEDchats 2020-2021 series
Co-hosts Lindsay Zebrowski (@MrsZebrasZoo) and Gillian Judson (@perfinker) are back again for yet another fantastic year of quick-paced and engaging #imaginEDchats. This imagination-focused chat series is a great way to meet, interact, and open channels of discussion with other imaginative PreK through post-secondary educators. The latest #imaginEDchat took place on February 3, 2021 and wasd around questions that spoke to this month’s theme of “We LOVE Teaching.” Educators were asked to consider what they love about teaching and how imagination fuels their passion for teaching.
Interested in learning more? Be sure to check out this year’s dates & topics & questions! The next chat, “Third Term Teamwork,” is scheduled for April 13, 2021 at 7pm (PST). We hope to see you join this discussion on Twitter (@imaginEDnow), you won’t want to miss out!
Launching a New Walking Curriculum Challenge for Spring 2021
The Walking Curriculum challenge is back! Starting on May 3 until June 11, educators around the globe (PreK through High School) will be taking learning outside—rain or shine—for 30 days.
With The Walking Curriculum: Evoking Wonder And Developing A Sense of Place as a resource and guide for outdoor learning, educators can engage students in imagination- and inquiry-focused walks designed to enrich their understanding of the regular curriculum. Outdoor, walking-based learning fuels cross-curricular activities that students pursue throughout the rest of their day.
This year’s challenge will be featuring new prizes, supporters, and ways to stay connected with other educators willing to take up the challenge. We hope you’ll spread the word and join us in the movement to #getoutside.
hundrED Award for the Walking Curriculum
The Walking Curriculum has just been named one of the world’s most inspiring innovations in K12 education.
The global education ecosystem has seen remarkable disruption in education this year. We have also seen an encouraging willingness among educators, parents, and students to embrace new ways of teaching and learning. During this pivotal moment in the history of education, internationally renowned education nonprofit HundrED has just released its fourth Global Collection at its first completely virtual online HundrED Innovation Summit. The Walking Curriculum was one of the innovations recognized in the report.
HundrED’s annual Global Collection highlights 100 of the most impactful innovations in K12 education from around the world to anyone for free. The goal is to inspire a movement by helping pedagogically sound, ambitious innovations spread and adapt to multiple contexts across the world. To make this year’s Global Collection, a shortlist of innovations was reviewed by 150 Academy Members consisting of academics, educators, innovators, funders, and leaders from over 50 countries. In total, there were 3404 reviews by the Academy based on their impact and scalability that were then evaluated by HundrED’s Research Team to make the final selection.
The Walking Curriculum (official website) was chosen due to its unique approach and its potential to create a sustainable impact in education. The Walking Curriculum is readily useable for teachers K12. The activities can be easily adapted and used in all contexts—limited additional time and/or resources are required. It reflects principles and practices of Imaginative Ecological Education as it offers walking activities that engage student imagination and cultivate emotional connection with place. The Walking Curriculum offers practical strategies and examples, but, more profoundly, it encourages teachers to have a new outlook on their teaching. It is empowering teachers to #getoutside (physically outside and, figuratively, “outside” by rethinking how they engage their students). It invites teachers to grow beyond the book within an online community of K12 imaginative ecological educators.
Congratulations to The Walking Curriculum and Dr. Gillian Judson on this amazing achievement! Click here to see HundrED’s innovation overview of The Walking Curriculum.
No Such Thing as Bad Weather, Only Bad Preparation
By Michael Datura
Last October, on a particularly cold and rainy Friday, 23 teachers and staff members from Matsqui Elementary in Abbotsford joined me—in social distanced cohorts—for a rather wet, but adventurous, workshop on the educational value of sit spots, nature journals, and The Walking Curriculum (Judson, 2018).
After a brief morning plenary on cultivating a “sense of place” in the relative warmth of the school gymnasium, these intrepid Westcoast educators set out to a nearby park, clad in all manner of raingear, umbrellas in hand, to put good intentions into practice. The rural school of approximately 150 students is well-situated for place-based learning; nestled as it is near the mighty Fraser River and a short walk from Matsqui Village Park, which provides plenty of green space and treed areas to take a seat (or stand, depending on weather) and allow the mind to settle on the mysteries and marvels of a more-than-human world. The Matsqui staff braved the conditions and sometimes unconventional learning activities with exemplary tact and thoughtful discussion—but when the time came to return to the gym for sushi, there were no complaints either.
In the afternoon we field-tested The Walking Curriculum in the schoolyard by exploring some of the 60-odd walking-focused activities from the book and discussing how such activities might be connected to curricular objectives. The day closed with some small group discussion about how to incorporate place-based learning into the culture of the school in a more consistent way. I suspect, given the resolve and resilience the staff displayed last October, there will be plenty more wonder-full, rain-splattered, days to come for the students of Matsqui Elementary.
A few of CIRCE’s Events & Adventures (October 2020 – February 2021)
Knowledge Synthesis Grant
A research team led by CIRCE Steering Committee members Drs. Sean Blenkinsop and Mark Fettes is looking at “how to educate for living within the Earth’s carrying capacity,” as part of a Canada-wide initiative led by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
The Knowledge Synthesis Grants fund work that reviews scholarship relevant to a particular problem of major significance for Canada’s future and makes suggestions and recommendations on the kind of research that may be needed going forward.
“Although there is widespread recognition that modern societies such as Canada are living beyond our means — that is, beyond anything the planet can support in the long or even the medium term — it’s still quite rare for people to be thinking hard about this as a educational problem,” Fettes comments. “How exactly can we go about educating for eco-social-cultural change on a massive scale? Is it possible within the educational systems we have at present, or do we have to invent new ones? And what could the path look like that takes us from where we are now to something more in harmony with the Earth’s systems and the needs of our more-than-human kin?”
The team, which includes four research assistants (Dr. Chloe Humphreys and PhD candidates David Chang, Lindsay Cole and Skylar Sage), will submit a 40-page report to SSHRC in March, but Fettes says this will be just the beginning of their work together.
“We are really interested in finding different ways of engaging people’s imaginations on this issue. At one point, each of us wrote a short story set in the future to help bring our ideas into clearer focus. We’ve been talking about children’s books, a podcast… it’s clear we need a whole range of approaches to helping people see new possibilities for how we think about and practice education, informed by a long-term ecological vision.”
Imaginative Schools Network Update
By Dr. Gillian Judson
What if school and community educational leaders, graduate students, educators, and researchers collaboratively explore the role of imagination in leadership, pedagogy, school culture, and reconciliation?
What if cognitive tools of Imaginative Education are employed to engage and grow imagination in the professional learning process itself?
What if the project findings were used to create a set of standards for imaginative schools?
These are the questions that inspired and ultimately shaped the Imaginative School Network (ISN) symposium series co-hosted by the Centre for Imagination in Research, Culture and Education (CIRCE) and the Centre for Educational Leadership and Policy (CSELP) at Simon Fraser University (SFU).The Imaginative Schools Network symposium concluded in October 2019 with an engaging series of discussions facilitated by the graduate students in the MEd in Imaginative K-12 leadership cohort. The ISN series actually served as the backbone for this cohort’s learning about imagination in leadership over the course of their two-year program. Following each symposium, students engaged in detailed, imaginative and critical reflection on the discussions. The cohort is now engaged in a process of collaboratively creating and co-authoring a resource based on the ISN series that includes reflections on imagination’s role in leadership, insight into the ISN experience, and a set of standards for imaginative schools. Ultimately, we hope the resource can advance understanding of the multifaceted ways in which imagination contributes to teaching, learning and leadership.
A spin-off writing project from the ISN is also well underway. Rose Pillay, Craig Mah, Courtney Robertson, Jonathan Sclater and Gillian Judson have engaged in collaborative study of leaders’ stories of imagination in action in their practices. All of the leadership stories are available on imaginED (www.educationthatinspires.ca) here.
The Possible’s Slow Fuse Series
The latest event in this ongoing series of talks by members of the SFU Faculty of Education was postponed from 2020 because of the pandemic, but finally took place over Zoom on January 27, 2021. Below is a summary of Cher Hill’s talk encouraging teachers to re-imagine themselves as participants in living webs of knowledge stretching far beyond classrooms and schools. The talk was very engaging, with the use of many thought-provoking images and opportunities for dialogue about teaching that (re)connects.
Becoming Defractive as Practitioners by Dr. Cher Hill
Since Donald Schön’s seminal address to the American Educational Research Association in 1987, reflective practice has become a cornerstone in teacher education. Indeed, reflective practice, and other forms of practitioner inquiry, can be transformative and emancipatory, empowering teachers as producers of local knowledge and agents of change within schools. Karen Barad however, invites us to displace reflection as the dominant model of inquiry, and consider diffraction as a guiding metaphor. Whereas reflective practice is based on the assumption that teachers are stable agential subjects who have the capacity to generate and act on representations of pre-existing realities, diffractive methods are situated within a relational ontology, in which reality and subjectivities are viewed as continuously re/constituted through material entanglements. During this gathering we will explore how we might be/come diffractive practitioners.
Cher Hill is Assistant Professor and an in-service and pre-service teacher educator in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. She supports teachers in studying their own practice as educators through the use of self-study and practitioner inquiry methodologies. Her current research utilizes new materialist theories to make visible the complex relations between human and more-than-humans within educational contexts. She is a passionate supporter of participatory learning and community-based educative initiatives. Her recent work involves collaborating with community partners to educate citizens about the impact of colonialization on the Fraser watershed and restore local creeks. She is privileged to journey with, and learn from, her three children, Kai (13), Alex (10), and Mia (8).
By Anne Chodakowski (pictured on the left) and Kym Stewart (pictured on the right)
In November, the CIRCE Academic Council had the pleasure of hearing from Tannis Calder, whose presentation was “Weaving Our Way: Patterns to Linear Relations in a Ts’msyen Context.” Tannis shared a summary of the work she did while in Prince Rupert (SD 52), incorporating First Peoples world views and perspectives to make connections to mathematical concepts. As the curriculum specialist for this project, Tannis worked collaboratively with Ts’msyen artists, fluent Ts’msyen speakers, classroom teachers, students and math experts.
In her presentation, Tannis shared details of four lessons she taught, “The Bead Problem,” “The Crab Legs Exploration,” “The Sun Exploration,” and “The Princess and the Grub Worm”—each of which was embedded in Ts’msyen culture—in which children played games to become familiar with and gain fluency in predicting increasing patterns. Tannis also used cedar weaving to help students observe, analyze and create mathematical patterns. The focus of Tannis’s presentation was on teaching she did with students in grades 4-7, but she also worked with students in grades 9-12 to teach algorithms through weaving. Tannis’s presentation was nothing short of inspiring. Her work made concrete ways in which Imaginative Education can be used in culturally relevant and culturally embedded ways to engage students emotionally and imaginatively in Math—a subject that, traditionally, many students have struggled to engage with in significant ways.
In January, David Futter shared with the Academic Council his presentation called “The Analytic Triad.” David proposed that, while emotion and imagination have been considered foundational to Imaginative Education, story, which has not been given equal consideration and weight, should be included as the “third pillar” of the analytic triad. David proposed that the wider educational community has tended to misunderstand imagination and story, considering them in oversimplified way and failed to grasp their significant educational potential. David argued that both emotion and story are central to our being as humans—how we take in information, make meaning of it, and express meaning to ourselves and to others; both emotion and story are central to learning. David suggested that this triad is essential to the creation and analysis of effective pedagogy. An energetic discussion ensued, in which David’s ideas were applied to various educational contexts, including K-12 classrooms and teacher education contexts. (To read more about “The Analytic Triad,” check out this post written by David here.)
In February, Mark Fettes shared a presentation he recently developed for pre-service teachers in SFU’s teacher education program. Called “From Big Ideas to Big Stories: Finding Imagination, Indigeneity and Place in the BC Science Curriculum,” the talk focused on the segment of the BC curriculum known as “big ideas” – “generalizations, principles and key concepts” that represent “what students are supposed to understand at the completion of the curriculum for their grade.” Taking the elementary chemistry curriculum as his example, Mark showed how insights from IE and Indigenous education could be used to uncover these “big ideas” in the world outside the classroom, connecting scientific understanding to “the story of stuff.” Mark suggested that a well-known statement of Indigenous educational values, the First Peoples Principles of Learning, could be used by teachers to guide learning journeys with their students, in which chemistry comes to be understood in the context of “the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits and the ancestors.” He illustrated this by sketching how the big ideas of chemistry from Kindergarten to Grade 6 might be taught through a focus on the diverse roles water plays in our lives and the life of the land. The rich discussion that followed showed how much resonance these ideas may have, not only in BC, but in many other places where teachers and schools are trying to figure out how to respond to the challenge of decolonization and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Updates from the Academic Council Members
CIRCE’s Academic Council is a diverse professional learning community connected by their shared appreciation for imagination and its role in the world. Read more to find out what several members of the Academic Council have been up to!
Reimagining Science: Using Art to Portray the Big Ideas in Chemistry and Biology
When science courses are limited to finding the one correct answer to well-defined questions, they fail to capture the richness that the practice of science entails. In a world where solutions to problems require contributions from multiple disciplines, college teachers still mostly remain in their silos. Since 2014, The Art & Science Project has explored the use of creativity and imagination to engage students academically and emotionally by transcending the traditional boundaries within the natural sciences.
In 2020, the project focused on the intersection between chemistry and biology. Students created an artwork that was personally meaningful and that connected the big ideas of these two disciplines. The creative process took place outside the classroom as asynchronous online dialogues between students and teachers. At the end of the semester, they had the opportunity to witness the richness of each other’s personal outlooks by presenting the final product to their teachers and peers. Casual observers might view this as a cute art project that is sprinkled with a little science, but it is instead science pedagogy wrapped in creativity. The artworks can be better appreciated when presented by their authors, where their creative processes and connections to the course material are made explicit:
- The Flux of Energy and Matter in the Realm of Cubism
- A Sense of Taste
- The Delicate Balance of Life
A pervasive problem in the natural sciences is that students do not see themselves in their work. The unforgettable experience described here leads to both a deeper understanding of and an emotional connection with the material. This was especially important in the online context, where we are all striving to keep all types of connection strong.
Educar para Imaginar: Announcing a New Education Blog in Spanish
By Carolina López (CIRCE Academic Council member, CIRCE’s IE mentor, PhD student) and Daniela Capaceta (Teacher educator, Imaginative Education Cohort Coordinator in Escuela Normal del Estado de Sonora)
Educar para imaginar is our new blog for Spanish-speaking educators who are eager to collaborate by sharing their interest in imagination as central to teaching and learning.
We are lucky to say that we have met innovative humans who live education passionately, foster the love of learning and think of imagination as its heart. Therefore, we are inviting teachers, student-teachers, parents and the community to help us bring awareness to the role imagination plays in education by sharing meaningful and imaginative practices, reflections and resources.
Needless but important to say, Imaginative Education (IE) is at the heart of this project. Our work with student teachers in Mexico learning about IE has inspired us in creating this space that we hope reaches everyone interested in this topic in the Spanish-speaking education world.
If you don’t speak Spanish, but want to share your valuable experience and expertise with our community, please let us know. We’ll happily translate your contribution with your permission.
Instagram account: @educarparaimaginar
Publication Announcement from Zuzana Vasko
Zuzana Vasko has worked on two arts-based walking projects about connecting imaginatively with natural ecologies close to home.
“Inner and Outer Weather: Creative Practice as Contemplative Ecological Inquiry,” explores how, in light of climate crises, we might more intimately connect with local weather through careful attentiveness. Considering how outside weather affects our inner states of being, and how, conversely, our worldviews have great effect on our ecosystems, Zuzana engaged in an ongoing series of drawings of the bark of trees. Bark being for trees the skin between inner and outer, and trees relying on the earth’s elements as we do, the project explored what we might have in common with them. Published in Prism: Casting New Light on Learning, Theory and Practice, it can be viewed here.
“Visiting, attending and Receiving: Making Kin with Local Woods” consists of a series of drawings that were done on regular walks to a local forest. Once each drawing was completed, it was buried at the site. The aim was to try to find it on another visit the way a squirrel or other animal might, without relying on maps or technology, and to imagine stories of how the forest might receive these drawings and then offer them back. It was an intimately visceral process of getting to know the woods through embodied and imaginative means. The resulting visual essay is forthcoming in a special issue on walking as critical inquiry with the International Journal of Education through Art.
CIRCE International (October 2020 – February 2021)
Updates from Chile
Elementary and Special Needs teacher, Master in Education, 40 years of experience working with schools, implementing inclusion and teaching in undergraduate and graduate programs in Education. Dean of the Faculty of Education, Psychology and Family Sciences of Finis Terrae University.
In 2015, Universidad Finis Terrae (UFT) signed an agreement with the Faculty of Education of Simon Fraser University. The objective of this collaboration was, and continues to be, to have Imaginative Education known in Chile and in Latin America. In 2016, we started with a Master’s program in Creativity and Innovation in Pedagogy, based on Imaginative Education and Neuroscience. Over the years, this collaboration has allowed us to have teachers come to Santiago from SFU, work with our Master’s students and have an open seminar for educators. Additionally, we have also managed to take a group, mostly of Chilean and some Mexican teachers, to Vancouver to have a seminar at SFU, visit schools in order to see IE in action and get to know/exchange experiences with former and current students from the MEd program at SFU.
Up to now, we’ve had 150 students in our Master program. As a result of this, and how they have implemented IE in their own realities, we have been able to implement an IE diploma program, as well as other IE courses and seminars in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica. Furthermore, we have been able to translate IE materials like Dr. Egan’s Educated Mind and Learning in Depth, as well as the materials provided by lecturers for our students. We have also trained teachers in Mexico, attended different symposiums and had this last year’s webinar with more than 500 teachers in attendance.
You may be wondering “Why have we put our focus on Imaginative Education?”
It’s well known that Latin American education urgently needs to improve its quality, and Chile is part of this problem. Different governments have put in place many reforms and public policies, which we have to admit, have shown very little improvement. In Universidad Finis Terrae, we strongly believe that the best, perhaps the only way, to make a difference is to work with teacher students and teachers in order to change their mindset about HOW they teach.
While we certainly have some concerns about what has to be taught according to the national curriculum, we understand that this is not in our hands to change. However, what we can do is act upon the evidence Neuroscience has given us—specifically the importance of engaging students’ emotions in order to have a successful learning process, and that does NOT need huge economic resources (which we generally lack). This is precisely why IE is so important, as it shows the teachers an effective and simple way to change what they have been doing for years. Once they take the risk of implementing one, two, or many cognitive tools, they find that it not only engages their students with what they are meant to learn, but themselves—as they also find enjoyment in planning, teaching, and achieving their goals.
Last January, thanks to the pandemic, UFT hosted an online webinar series. Seventy teachers from Chile, Mexico and Brazil were able to listen and interact with Dr. Kieran Egan, Dr. Natalia Gadjmasdko, Judy Dabideen-Sonachansingh, Christa Rawlings, James Johnson, Dr. Anabella Cant and Dr. Kym Stewart. From Dr. Egan himself, students were able to learn the basics of IE, understand Vygotsky’s perspective about imagination and how this relates to the cognitive tools. Through this seminar series, students saw how cognitive tools can be implemented at many different levels of education (e.g. during teacher training or at the post-secondary level). Although meeting online is not the same as visiting schools in Vancouver, this webinar certainly opened the door of IE to many more students and teachers.
In the faculty, we are looking forward to continuing with these kinds of experiences, but also advancing in doing research that can provide evidence that introducing cognitive tools in teaching is more than effective, and has the potential to not only change students’ engagement, but their minds. We hope that, in developing skills to be creative, these students can contribute to building a better society—no matter the path they choose.
The Three Amigos: Canadian Teachers Reflect on the Chilean Seminar Series
Between them (pictured in order from left to right), Judy Dabideen-Sonachansingh, Christa Rawlings, and James Johnson have more than a half-century of teaching experience in BC schools and more than 30 years of experience with Imaginative Education.
Nervcited. That is what James called it—we were feeling a mix of nervous and excited. Christa Smith Rawlings, James Johnson and I have been working on Imaginative Education for quite some time, but this time we were trying to discuss it in a challenging format during a challenging time. We agreed to present how we use Cognitive Tools in our teaching to the Imaginative Education for Chilean Educators Virtual Seminar 2021. We were particularly concerned about the technology involved and presenting to a group of Spanish speaking teachers, when we ourselves only spoke a few words of Spanish.
Our nervousness was unwarranted however. With the help of Marilu Matte and Natalia Salas, the technology worked and the translation was brilliant. It is a testament to human imagination that even during a pandemic, we can work together from Surrey, North Vancouver, Oakland, Mexico and Chile to share ideas and learn together.
We soon discovered that even though we were far apart and spoke different languages, our concerns and questions were the same. We all shared the common experience of wanting to provide a rich learning opportunity for our students. By demonstrating how Cognitive Tools could be used to make our lessons more engaging, we all moved a little closer to what is possible in Education. We look forward to continued conversations, sharing and promoting imagination as a sound pedagogical basis for teaching and learning.
Updates from Brazil
By Roberta and Taís Bento
The challenges of 2020 did not hinder our future experts from learning and developing their portfolios. The students of Maple Bear, in São José dos Campos, São Paulo, Brazil, had a busy year despite the educational difficulties posed by the Pandemic. Having classes online gave learners more time to think about their topics and, in addition, extra help in their household. They had new ways and more time to engage with their families!
Unable to leave the house, our classes took place remotely for most of the year. From April to September our educators aided students in finding new ways to learn: online visits to the world’s most famous museums became customary, Google Maps allowed traveling in our city and the world, we dove into books and explored new and magical learning possibilities – and, of course, great adventures.
With the use of desktops, laptops, cellphones, and tablets, the students could pick up and hone new skills. Technologically, we explored yet uncharted learning opportunities, such as computer aptitude, becoming familiar with useful software, and developing online games and presentations.
At the end of the year, we sought to display some of the beautiful works created in 2020. The very excited students showed great interest in sharing their accomplishments with their families and friends – they voluntarily prepared their material to show the path they had traveled with their LiD projects throughout the year. Unfortunately, this prime exhibition of creative learning became unsafe to take place in person, so we decided that their presentations would be recorded; this way, they could share it with even more people. From year-1 to year-5, it was a ball of mock-ups, books, slides, clothing and accessories, and all sorts of creative paraphernalia showcasing the world how much they had learned and were excited to exhibit.
The year of 2020 challenged, but did not halt Maple Bear SJC, the first school in Brazil to apply LiD, from cultivating its impact and value. We are excited to continue to grow with our students, whatever challenges this new year may bring.
Learning In Depth
By Cecily Heras
2020. What a year! Before I go too far, congratulations to Dr. Gillian Judson! She has led the LiD initiative for many years and has now moved into an Assistant Professor role in Educational Leadership in the Faculty of Education at SFU. Thank you, Gillian, for your enthusiasm, leadership, and hard work. Good luck in all your endeavors.
While 2020 was full of last-minute changes, cancellations, disappointments, postponements, and loss, it wasn’t without its promise. When a group faces an entirely new and potentially fatal problem, they are forced to get creative. More people started to recognize that it was the imagination which could best be called upon to respond to the type of emergent foreign situations cropping up daily. Like a quick-ball-change on the dancefloor, we had to lead on the other foot. As a society, we had in many ways assigned and imprisoned our imaginative capacity to the realm of childhood, generally tolerating it in primary schools and the occasional outlier genius. This year the imagination was given center stage in our responses to the ever-changing global pandemic.
LiD, like everything and everyone else, had to adjust. Conferences were postponed or cancelled so opportunities to spread the word to colleagues was limited. With classrooms first shutting down, then maintaining a strict no visitors policy, along with international borders closing and travel severely limited, LiD could no longer offer its usual educational consultations, in-person training, or community outreach. But, though the spring term was disrupted, and in a perpetual state of hope that this would be all over soon, we continued forward with plans for the Fall and Winter.
To further explore LiD and receive insight from our local teachers, our colleagues in Brazil had arranged to travel to Canada in the late Fall. When it became quite clear that this was no longer possible, the team was determined to make the best of the situation and find a creative, collaborative, and engaging solution. The Brazil team quickly came up with the idea to host a 5-day, live, virtual conference during which 200+ students in Brazil would present to an online panel who would offer detailed and personal feedback. As you can imagine, the logistics of arranging this event were substantial. Choosing dates and then scheduling hundreds of student presentations and rotating international commentators with anywhere from a five-to eight-hour time difference was daunting. With efforts fully underway, however, the second wave of the pandemic hit hard in Brazil, waylaying plans once again. A new solution had to be sought, and fast.
The new, new plan involved fewer students as schooling in Brazil was disrupted and group gatherings were no longer permitted. Rather than live presentations with feedback delivered on the spot, the team switched its sights to pre-recorded versions of presentations spliced together with comments recorded separately. This was nothing at all like what had been originally planned, but these days demand quick creative solutions and like the students, we dove into unknown territory with an open mind. So, with little time and an enormous amount of enthusiasm for the project, the team again rearranged schedules and expectations.
The result of this effort was tremendously positive and exciting. In the third week of December, 24 Brazilian students ranging in age from 6-12 recorded amazing presentations about topics as diverse as seeds, hands, cosmic objects, and the counting system. Overall, though these students had been exploring their LiD topics for just one year, their knowledge was incredibly varied and inspiring. Following their curiosities, students shared their enthusiasm for their topics in a variety of ways including sharing stories, showing graphs, building models, designing clothing, and building timelines. More than one admitted to feeling quite disappointed when they first received their topic, initially finding it boring or unappealing. Each of these students, however, then added that the more they dug, the more they had come to like the topic.
Commentators too enjoyed this process tremendously.
“It has been a lot of fun watching these little video presentations. As I have been using LiD for a few years now, I am always interested to see how other schools/students engage with the topics. I had a smile on my face hearing the genuine enthusiasm in the students’ voices,” Andrea Alberti, LiD commentator.
After pre-screening early in the new year, the group zoomed in to offer their responses, allowing our educators to share their interest with one another and the students. By the end of the 2-hour session led by Dr. Kieran Egan, each student had received 2-3 different viewpoints for their work which included positive feedback and questions to spark further curiosities.
Although many things were disrupted last year, even family dinners, others have been enhanced. Coming up with creative solutions to problems we have not before faced proves once again that there are no limits to the imagination and our creative capacity. It was encouraging to find our LiD community so eager and willing to deepen and share their knowledge. Thank you to all of the team: the students and educators in Brazil who worked tirelessly to find a solution, and then prepare and record such wonderful presentations; the team in Canada who volunteered their time in the service of deeper knowledge; and those behind the scenes who made sure it all came together. This has been a great start to 2021.
Learn More & Participate
There are lots of ways to get involved with CIRCE. Follow CIRCE on Instagram here (as well as LiD on INSTA here). You can learn lots about CIRCE on Twitter here, including the latest news and events going on in CIRCE.
Interested in writing for us? We are always on the lookout for new guest writers on our blog imaginED. We are interested in exploring the multifaceted roles imagination plays in our world. We publish posts on education, but also business, theatre, design, arts—you name it! What connects the varied content on our blog is the focus on imagination: the ability to envision the possible at the heart of human culture. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in sharing your imagination-focused practices/ideas with our community.
To help CIRCE sustain and expand its work championing imagination, creativity and innovation, please consider being a sponsor! Donate to a movement that increases the prevalence of imagination in education and, as a result, in our communities and workplaces. (Donations are tax deductible.) Your funds support an organization that connects imaginative people, companies, projects, and research. For more information on how to support CIRCE visit our sponsorship webpage.