Author ofEducate in green, assures that "children must be encouraged to love the planet, rather than ask them to save it."
Rather than "save" the planet, we are going to "love" the planet ... That is the primary lesson that Heike Freire has learned after two long decades as a pedagogue and communicator and author of Educate in green (Grao) trying to transmit to the teachers that contagious passion that children carry in their own nature.
What exactly is "green" pedagogy? Is it a new way of teaching focused on nature or is it something more?
Rather, it is an educational approach based on trust, on the innate intelligence with which every living being is equipped. Children and young people have within them everything they need to grow and develop fully. Rewards (white pedagogy) and punishments (black pedagogy) disorient. The “green” pedagogy instead proposes a conscious accompaniment of the natural processes of development, self-awareness and learning of children. Contact with the natural environment favors this reunion, the reconnection with ourselves and with the planet. Nature is a wise and living space from which our species emerged hundreds of thousands of years ago. She is both a mother and a teacher. It offers us experiences that have no substitute, especially in childhood. Integrating it into education is starting to build that ecological transition that we so badly need.
So the environment should be a "new" subject?
I believe that it should be a transversal subject, which permeates all the other knowledge. It would have to be the axis of the entire curriculum building. From a much more concrete and flexible curriculum, where everyone could build their own path. We don't have much idea of what the job market will require in ten or fifteen years, but we know that we will need good people, good mothers and fathers, attentive and supportive brothers and neighbors… We will need farmers to produce local, uncontaminated food. Biologists capable of repairing the ecosystems that we are damaging. Engineers who can develop clean and simple technologies imitating the wisdom of nature… Artists and intellectuals who can create stories and images that symbolize a new culture centered on life and rooted in the earth. We know that we will need good citizens committed to an ethic of care, who deeply love the planet, who know how to take care of it, respect it, and in harmony with all forms of human, non-human and more than human life.
You talk about the need to "re-naturalize" schools, shouldn't we have to start by re-naturalizing cities? Many schools don't even have a green space nearby ...
Of course. And more and more town councils are aware of this need, of the close relationship that exists between the care and renaturalization of their spaces and the health and well-being of their citizens. Families and schools can support this impulse by frequently going out to nearby green environments, demanding that more spaces be re-naturalized, occupying abandoned lots to transform them into orchards and gardens managed by the educational and neighborhood communities themselves, as is already the case in several places. In addition, by transforming cement and concrete patios into areas where you can play with water and earth, into groves and orchards, we are providing cities with new green spaces, which benefits everyone.
There is much talk about school gardens and forest schools, but the harsh reality remains the concrete playgrounds and the difficulties parents and teachers encounter. Are things really changing?
I would say yes. The movement is unstoppable. In the last six years, the seed has spread throughout the country and there are already hundreds, if not thousands of schools that are involved in transformation processes of their outdoor spaces. Until then, most people viewed concrete and emptiness as "normal." The teachers did not use them for more than half an hour of rigor. Always with many conflicts either due to gender issues or simply coexistence, as they have not been thought about or worked on from an educational point of view. The architects had no data on the patios. And yet, they often occupy between 40 and 60% of the surface of schools. And if they have any natural element, trees or even a small pond, it is usually closed, inaccessible to students. All this is changing thanks to the enormous awareness-raising work that many people are doing. Like Carme i Pitu, two retired teachers who develop the Safareig project and have visited and advised hundreds of centers. The interest is enormous. In a recent workshop that I gave on the subject in Alicante, for 80 people, there were 200 registered ...
Tell us about the influence of Richard Louv and Quing Li on your work, the link between the forest and childhood, your personal experience in Madreselva ...
I was accompanying boys and girls at that school in the forest, which was in Vera Cáceres, when I heardRichard Louv. When I read it it was as if all the pieces of the puzzle fit together and it is great news thatThe last children in the woods (Captain Swing) has finally been published in Spain. It was a great inspiration for me. He is not only a great professional in journalism, serious and rigorous, with a solid background in many other fields. He is also a very committed person. WithQuing Li I was in contact three years ago in Japan, when I visited throughout the country several areas prepared to practice what the Japanese call Shinrin-Yoku, forest baths. Nobody transmits like him to what extent our life, our health and our well-being depend on the trees. I think it is a very alive feeling in that country, due to its history: several centuries ago the Japanese were on the verge of losing their entire forest mass, of turning into a desert, as happened on Easter Island. But they were able to rectify it and now they have some of the most beautiful forests in the world.
You also emphasize the need for the child's “daily” contact with nature, beyond the periodic “trips” to the countryside.
According to studies, the link between human beings and nature is established and strengthened in a sustained, daily, continuous relationship. This does not diminish the value of weekly, monthly or even quarterly departures, which are also very beneficial. But if you think about any other relationship, with a friend or a relative, it is essential to live everyday life, at least for a time, for that bond to be established. When two people love each other, they want to be together, especially in the beginning. Then, over the years, if that bond is strong, it can withstand any separation. Childhood is the stage in the life of the human being in which his link with the natural environment is built. That is why it is essential that we transform family, school and urban environments, so that children and young people can grow in love for the land. Also so that they can be healthy and fully live their childhood. I would say that it is a fundamental right of every human creature: to cultivate a relationship of care and affection not with his human family, but also with his non-human or more than human family.
Nature and Technology to what extent are they incompatible? How can a child regain awe of nature in the age of Snapchat?
Indeed, there is much debate among specialists. And it is an issue that worries me because many families are overwhelmed, they feel powerless. A few months ago, during a workshop on this matter, there was a long silence on the question: how do you relate to technology? Then people started saying that they felt guilty, frustrated… In which most of us agree that we need a balance. And it is likely that, in the first years of life, less technology is synonymous with better health and better development. Later, it can be introduced, but always with criteria. Thinking of first satisfying more fundamental needs such as spontaneous play in nature. A basic criterion for balancing nature and technology is to observe whether the latter contributes to extending or reducing our life. In the latter case, it is better to intervene as soon as possible. And always, consider the needs we have, use the devices with awareness, without losing control, without letting them use us, instead of us using them. This works for any age, and adults, being more mature, we have to set an example. Although I admit that it is very difficult because the screens are extremely addictive.
You dedicated a book to hyperactivity and attention deficit(Be still and listen! editorial Herder) .To what extent are they a response to the “deficit of nature” and the unnatural life in which we embark children today?
The problems of attention and excessive movement of children are directly related to the deficit of nature and the accelerated lifestyles that we have. We know this because when we give them the opportunity to connect with the earth and its rhythms, to slow down, to open up to the gentle and non-invasive stimulation that the natural world provides, these types of symptoms disappear or are greatly reduced. Also when we create school and urban environments where boys and girls can satisfy their natural needs for movement, something that is not usually given importance and, however, is fundamental for organic and neurological development, also for emotional regulation. I always say that education and childcare is a great opportunity for us. The difficulties of children and young people are telling us that we need a change of course. Build a kinder, more humane, slower society ... and more connected to the natural world.
Finally, tell us about the book you have in your hands, about Nature as a teacher to recover our own condition and delve into human nature ...
In the last ten or eleven years, I have had the opportunity to collect hundreds of childhood memories, in different countries, with different social origins, genders, professions ... When I ask the people who come to my workshops what nature gave them When they were boys and girls, and what it brings them now, most tell me that it helped them and helps them connect with themselves. Many times I have wondered where we are when we are not with ourselves. But, wherever we are, I believe that this return, this reunion with ourselves is one of the main teachings of the natural world. And it is essential for education. Because being yourself, knowing yourself, knowing what your wishes and needs are, also your limits or your capabilities, accepting and valuing yourself in your right measure, is the basis for being able to grow and learn. In addition, in those memories, you can see how nature brings people closer. It feeds our feeling of belonging to a group, strengthens our ties and stimulates our ability to be in solidarity. So it can help us recover values that are essential to our survival.
How we explain climate change to children
“Up to the age of twelve or fourteen, boys and girls learn mainly through concrete activities and experiences. Therefore, it is better not to make too many speeches and to start by relying on your own experiences. Today, the consequences of global warming are so evident that it is not difficult to find tangible and concrete facts, either in the increase in temperatures and the frequency of heat waves (of which they can record themselves) or the loss of biodiversity and the state of imbalance in which most ecosystems are found (which can also be verified if we take them to natural environments). As regards pollution, the majority of urban children, unfortunately, feel and suffer from it. Studies show that it affects your respiratory health, your attention span, your memory, and even your mood and behavior. So it is not difficult to find signs of this evidence in their own lives or those of close people, so that they can realize and reflect on it.
If we review the state of the planet, it is easy to fall into fear-mongering. To what extent should this urgent message be conveyed to children?
“The most important thing is to accompany them in the development of their ecological conscience, starting from the feelings of love and care for the planet with which every boy and girl comes into the world. If we offer them suitable environments where they can be in contact with nature every day, develop their sensoriality, their ability to move, observe, explore, discover, take risks, run adventures and live magical experiences, we will be helping to strengthen their bond, to expand their capacity to empathize with other forms of life, to perceive them as traveling companions and even as part of themselves. Over time, they will integrate and defend these values that they have lived and practiced: they will feel the earth as an extension of themselves, they will take care of it and defend it. If we load the inks in the guilt for what our species is doing to the planet and the fear of the foreseeable disastrous consequences for us, we will transmit those feelings to them, as well as a sense of helplessness, and they will tend to avoid the question so as not to feel them. You have to encourage them to love the planet, before asking them to save it. "