An interplay of nature, environmental advocacy, regenerative gardening, Reggio-inspired education, learning, work, and love. How using what you have, cooperating with who you know, and supporting local businesses can inspire positive lifestyles.
In the upcoming weeks, I will be posting research, data, resources, activities, and interviews with local —and distant— people that inspire me. I've been looking over old journal entries lately, and though I write often, I am only writing in my voice and thoughts when I am upset or venting. I would like to use this space as a place to spread inspiration, positivity, research-based resources, cooperation, and uplifting messages. Nature has always been a safe space for me to breathe, explore, discover, and investigate. All people, especially children deserve access to nature and its many wonders. I am looking to interview community members who are making a difference and raising awareness for the environment, nature-based/outdoor education, organic regenerative food chain supply, gardening and composting, mindfulness and meditation, wonder-based learning, and other related topics. Join me as we release new content every Thursday. Our "Thirsty for Good Vibes Thursday" sessions will start next week.
“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has —or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time. It's our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” ~Fred Rogers
While I am organizing, collecting data, and preparing my interviews, I can use this entry to give a little bio about myself.
Finding my place
I have always loved nature and the wild outdoors. Growing up I would spend hours, days, weeks at my great-grandparents' farm in New Tripoli, PA. I would make mud pies, dig up animal skeletons, run through corn fields, roll down grassy hills, watch the sunset with my cousins, fill my pockets with nature treasures, tell stories under my favorite pine tree, catch fireflies, pick vegetables and flowers, forage in the woods, and fish with my grandfather.
I was a maker. I would make puppets out of old fabric. I was sewing very young. I used any material I could find to build, create, carve, illustrate, or add function to my story telling. I had collections of old buttons, wooden pieces, nature treasures, fabric scraps, broken jewelry pieces, carving instruments, and sketchbooks. I spent hours reading of far off lands, writing about fairies, and drawing anything I could find. I loved cooking and baking, playing instruments, playing sports, and theater. But my interests, no matter how they may have seemed unrelated, always revolved around learning, nature, and identifying my true self.
I always imagined that I would become a teacher, an educational leader, or facilitator. I went to Drexel University in Philadelphia for Graphic Design. I worked with children in local Philadelphia schools as part of a service learning project. I volunteered and was a lab-tech in our printmaking studio. I was growing my identity as a technical artist but I was not focusing on nature as much—or so I thought. Looking back, my projects were based on sustainability and environmental awareness and advocacy. My page layouts displayed vivid photos that I took while in England, France, Wales, trips around the US, and in and around Philadelphia. My packaging projects focused on teas that could heal, that could be used also as a facial scrub after steeping, boxes that folded into hugs. My senior thesis was based on raising awareness for FairTrade goods and encouraging consumption of FairTrade items on college campuses, businesses, and for large-scale conferences in an effort to normalize and mainstream sustainable trade ethics.
I lived and worked in Canada for a global communications company. I laid out and designed pages for various newspapers across Canada and the US. It was interesting to read the articles uncut and then see how each paper presented the story. It really gave me perspective on the power of the written word, the time and space it is given, and the picture it can paint without images. While in Ontario, I started to spend more time in nature. My friends and I had Sunday Fun Days and would explore, play games outside, and hike weekly. My village had changed but it had evolved in a way that opened my eyes to the comfort of simple times, a slower lifestyle, presence over presents.
Later, while attending Temple University, I was the volunteer/resident-teaching artist for the Prodigies group in the Norris Square Neighborhood Project organization. We worked on visualizing and creating screen print designs. We helped the teen students gain entrepreneurial skills and earn money for themselves. I helped the students at the program transfer ideas from sketch to screen (computer and silkscreen). It was really fulfilling. We worked on a city-wide initiative called "wings of love" about spreading positivity and awareness for a Love is Love campaign. We created banners which were displayed at City Hall. I also volunteered with Greater Philadelphia Cares program which teaches science and math to elementary children on Saturdays. I increased my education path to encompass a graduate level dual-certification teaching program. I was a student teacher at Greenfield Elementary School and worked primarily with students with IEPs and 504 plans. I completed my program in just under 2 years graduating with an M.Ed with dual-teaching certifications in Pennsylvania in Special Education (N-12) and Elementary Education (K-6). I also earned my Art Education certification (K-12).
I was hired immediately in Pittsburgh at The Environmental Charter School at Frick Park. I taught an environmental / art hybrid class and had every student grades K-6 and then 4-7. We were right in Frick Park and had access to outdoor classrooms. It was while teaching there that I earned my teaching certifications in Environmental Ed (K-12) and Middle School Science. I created all of my own curriculum by following the unit prompts and worked with several of the grade level teachers to offer extensions of the lessons they were learning in class but integrating art and environmental studies to offer a more contextual experience. My favorite project was with the fifth graders as we created bird nest inspired baskets during our "All living things and habitats" Unit. While focusing on community outreach, I contacted the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and got our baskets displayed in a special guest exhibit and all students involved received free tickets to visit their creations while they were displayed for an entire month. We had our 6th grade observational nature drawings on display as the visual artwork at the local employment office for a special outreach initiative program corresponding to First Friday Art events. Our fourth graders also created milk carton and paper cars based on their Green Energy Unit. Three groups were chosen to present their environmentally friendly cars and new fuel ideas at the Pittsburgh Car Show in 2013.
I entered the role of mother and moved along with my husband as he was transferred with his work over the next few years until we finally settled back into our "home town". Even though we were home, I felt lost without teaching and my village. After having taken a Tinkergarten class in NJ, I applied and began leading classes in Emmaus and Allentown public parks year round. We played outside barefoot, smashed chalk with mallets, built obstacle courses around trees, yarn bombed (and unbombed) benches, painted with mud, created stone soup, sculpted with forest putty, and joyfully ran around in big open spaces before, during, and after class. We were wild and free. We met friends and found other outdoor people to meet with at local parks. I had aspirations of becoming a teacher or opening my own school where I would set my own hours, and write my own curriculum, and start seasons when it was convenient for my family. A place where people could find that piece that was missing, where they could lean in together during the rough times. A place where I could connect with myself, connect to nature, connect to others, and connect to my heart. What was I waiting for? Was I even waiting at all or was it just happening around me.
The Finding Place
For me The Finding Place, isn't as much about a place as it is about a feeling. The Finding Place means making connections to self, others, nature, and heart. For different people that may look or play out in various ways. The Finding Place is a village where everyone involved is caring, dedicated, nonjudgmental, open to new ideas, and able to share a gift that they have with others. We can all learn from each other outdoors whether it be experiencing the sensory garden, investigating the pollinator garden, exploring the mud kitchen, maintaining the many composting set ups, climbing up in the club house, huddling around the gnome stumps at the fire, whispering in the bushes, or dipping our toes in the pond.
We can all learn from each other as we pivot our original plans for 2020—beyond and take this life one day at a time. We can slow down. Exploring, investigating, creating, discovering, playing, failing, trying again, championing for each other, holding out our hand to new experiences, and letting go of all that no longer serves our greater purpose. For the tree that holds onto its leaves throughout the winter, doesn't have the energy to grow towards the sky—we reach up, inhale deeply, and take one step at a time into tomorrow.