#getoutside in Higher Education: Walking Challenge Accepted

During World Creativity & Innovation Week (April 15-21, 2018) I had the pleasure of moderating a week-long conversation on imagination with the Google+ Creative Higher Education (#CreativeHE) community. My imaginative colleague Jailson Lima from Vanier College, Quebec, moderated with me. You can read the whole week of conversation on Google+ in the Creative Academic community spacehere.

Walking Challenge

We posed an imaginative challenge on Day 3. The challenge? Get Outside. Here’s what we said:

Greetings imaginative colleagues! Sometimes we need to change our contexts (eg actual locations, ways of engaging, practicing or thinking) to get our imaginations going; we need to purposefully step outside of our typical practices to more easily envision new possibilities and alternative perspectives. The goal of this challenge is to stimulate the imagination of someone else and the challenge requires you to literally (and figuratively) get outside. We want you to take a walk with wonder and curiosity guiding you. Have something in mind that you teach or you might help someone else learn. Let your wonder and curiosity guide you in noticing what your local community might teach. What lessons or knowledge does the Place afford? How is your imagination ignited? If you are a teacher or educational developer seek the affordances for teaching/learning this topic outside. What imaginative task or activity might your students do while outside (walking or in stillness) that could enhance their imaginative engagement and meaning-making and enable their creativity to flourish?

(You can learn more about the Walking Curriculum from imaginEDhere.Currently a PreK-12 resource but expanding!)

Walking For Understanding: #story vs #story-form

I also took the challenge! I decided to focus on how I might teach the difference between the/a “story” (could be fiction/non-fiction, the content is key) and the “story-form” (more to do with the shaping of the information. Evoking emotional response/imagination is key) through a walking-focused, imaginative activity.

I find this to be a concept that many of my students (experienced teachers) can struggle with. Educators have deeply rooted notions of “story” and its role in their teaching. No matter how many times I seem to talk about using the story-form in teaching (or that our teaching can be viewed as story-telling and us, story tellers) and despite many examples, a significant percentage of my students don’t seem to really understand the difference. I see the misunderstanding or limited understanding in their assignments and reflections. Many miss the profound power of the story for learning and believe that teaching as story-telling means that they must tell actual stories (the who/what/why/ when/where) or create fictions for their teaching. Clearly my teaching is falling short.

Will an experiential, emotionally and imaginatively engaging activity will deepen understanding?

My idea: Ask my students to explore the community around campus. They would be asked to capture images (they could evoke them later with words for us; or take pictures) that would either fall into the #story or the #story-form category. We would debrief their choices and, in the process, more deeply understand the power of the story-form as a way of human thinking/teaching.

Here is what I came up with on my own walk:

#story-form (Collage) How do kids learn about the seasons? About Spring? Teaching about Spring could be shaped in a story-form if we focused on colour. We can use colour as way of emphasizing the metaphorical (and literal) sense of rebirth and new life. The MAGIC of spring—the surprise? the beauty? (What heroic quality could shape the narrative?) We could frame the actual biological process of life cycle of plant and/or situation of the Earth with dramatic emotional ideas of life/death or renew/end. (Note: #notstory-form: “Spring is one of the four conventional temperate seasons, following winter and preceding summer.” (wikidpedia) ….) A collage of the #story-form images I took on my walk:


#story-form (Video) I was also thinking about my walking on my walk…What’s the story on walking? Evoking a #story-form about walking might focus on what Dan Rubinstein (author of Born To Walk) calls “the maginificence of bipedalism”. A story-form evokes the wonder, life- and world-changing impact of humans getting up on two feet. Check out that videohere.


#story (Collage) In this collage I have images of particular things happening in my community or evoking something historic. The content is key.

Think—This is a local community arts project using ribbon. The next two words are “and wonder”

Vacant Lot—This lot is at the centre of a controversy between landowner and developers. Lawyers hired!

Street Corner—This is the site of a tragic shooting a few years ago.

A nut—One chestnut. In the middle of the school field. How did it get there? What has this chestnut experienced?

Wooden village—For days local kids have been collecting sticks and building this village in miniature near my home in a local park. It is alive with stories for these children!

Bird house—Someone built this home to feed the birds–was it sunny on the day it was hung on this fence? How did it end up crooked?

In telling these “stories” I could, of course, teach about different moral lessons or ideas of social importance. Also, my telling will be more engaging if I use cognitive tools but these are “stories”. Specific, defined. The next time I teach about #story vs. the #story-form we will be walking.

Do you take your teaching outdoors? How can the Place (natural/cultural) contribute to your teaching of concepts and ideas?

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