This project was a class assignment I completed while pursuing an Experiential Education graduate degree. The assignment was to design a curriculum packet consisting of four different experiential lesson plans.
Lesson Title: Yarnbusters vs. Frostbite
Intended Learners: Adults and children interested in strengthening their community by learning the basics of fiber craft.
Learning Objectives: Learners will go home with the ability to knit their own scarves and hats. Learners will also begin to understand the relationship between yarn size, needle size, stitch type, stretch, and warmth in a garment. Learners will most importantly feel how time spent crafting can make a difference for those in need.
Procedures: First, many different sizes and lengths of knitting needles will be collected, along with all kinds of different yarns. These are cheap at thrift stores and all knitters have overflowing stashes. Local knitters willing to facilitate this event will lead small groups of volunteers in the basics of knitting simple garments such as scarves and hats.
Facilitators will prompt the group with questions while they knit. Who in your family is a crafty person? What have they knitted, crocheted, sewn, quilted? What is your favorite warm-weather hat or scarf you own, and why? What kinds of warm-weather clothing do you hate wearing, and why? What kind of styles do you see emerging in the group? What does your choice of yarn say about your piece? What frustrates you about this process, and what feels easy? Which part of this event have you taken pictures of, and what will you write when you post them?
Coffee and pastries will fuel the work. Christmas music will play softly in the background. At the end of the knit-a-thon, all the garments will be donated to local care organizations and distributed to those in need.
Assessment: By the end of the event, learners should be able to cast on, knit, and cast off a full garment by themselves. Learners who can knit without constant supervision are considered highly successful and should be encouraged to take a second helping of pastries.
Time will be set aside for reflective discussion during and after the event. Did anyone have a breakthrough moment? Did anyone hit a serious learning block? What surprised you about the process of knitting? How will you teach what you've learned? What patterns or styles were present in your work? What is your next knitting project?
Materials: Yarn, donated by local fiber artists and/or bought for cheap at any local thrift store. Knitting needles, both straight and circular, loaned by local knitters and/or bought for cheap at any local thrift store. Chairs. Coffee. Pastries. Some kind of speaker system to keep everyone in the knitting spirit.
Lesson Title: Homebuilding beyond Humanity
Intended Learners: Older children and adults with a curiousity about the more-than-human world and a willingness to learn new material skills.
Learning Objectives: Learners will understand how other creatures live and how to make room in the world for other forms of life. Participants will also learn how to work with a material that is new to them.
Procedures: Learners will be asked to choose a species from their local environment and learn how the species lives. Is it a water-dwelling creature, a nest-builder, a hole-digger, a root-wiggler? Perhaps they will research the hives of bees or the caves of bats or the preferred substrate for slime molds. The topics and the methods of this project are totally in the hands of the learners.
Then, participants will begin to construct livable homes for their chosen creatures. This may look like a birdhouse, a bug log, a compost bin for worms, a fenced-in area for a grove of trees, whatever will make the chosen species most comfortable. All the facilities of the learning environment should be made open to these learners as they build their neo-mini-homesteads. Students should be able to build as much of their project as possible themselves, though in some cases, pre-built aspects may need to be purchased or found. Decorative patterns and designs are highly encouraged. Educators participating in this project will facilitate safe practices and share material and tool knowledge when needed.
When the homes are finished, the learners will install them into whichever environment they will be most likely to be used and appreciated by their chosen creatures. The homes will provide a continuing learning experience for the students as they check in on their structures throughout the seasons - and, possibly, make repairs.
Assessment: By the end of this project, learners will have researched a local non-human creature, built a home that could be used by that creature, and installed the home into the environment.
Some questions for learners during their research phase: What does this creature need in its home? What does this creature add to its home once it moves in? How is your home most like the home of your chosen species, and how is it most different? How has the habitat of your species been affected by the habitat of the human world? Is this a species that will live in the same home for a long time, or are you hoping to host many different individuals? What would you like to imitate about the living habits of this creature? What are your personal responsibilities as a person who lives alongside your chosen species in your local ecology? How do you affect each other?
Questions for the building stage: Are you using materials familiar to this species? What experience are you trying to provide for these creatures? What about your home is traditional to the species and what aspects are your innovations? Are there certain designs or decorations that your species presents or prefers? Is this home meant to facilitate human interaction, like a beekeeper's hive or a horse's stable? How is your past relationship with this species influencing your design?
Questions for the installation stage: Are you placing the home to encourage interaction with the human world, or refuge and solitude? What kinds of ecological indicators will you use to know the ideal location for installation? How will this home interact with the homes built by other students? How often do you plan to check on this project, once installed? Would you live in a home like this?
Materials: Materials will vary widely. A library and/or a good internet connected will be necessary for the research stage. Any kind of craft or workshop space will help in the construction stage: woodworking, ceramics, fiber, metalworking, blacksmithing, even circuitry and computer modeling workspaces might be used. A large wild area is necessary for research and installation, though it does not have to be adjacent to the learning space. Permission should be gathered first, of course, by the owners or stewards of the land being used.
Lesson Title: Facilitated Ambulatory Myceliation
Intended Learners: Local learners of all ages that enjoy strolling in the outdoors.
Learning Objectives: Learners will understand the basics of trailbuilding and trail maintenance. Learners will also step their adventurous toes into urban planning and city-level politics.
Procedures: The learning cohort will find two walking paths - official or unofficial - which are nearby but unconnected. In the pursuit of a more walkable world, the learners will do the physical work and the advocacy work to connect the two paths. The manual labor may include earthmoving, tree cutting, boulder-splitting, and stair-building.
For the advocacy work, the cohort may need to stand up in city council meetings, hold audience with the local city planner or similar civil servant, and generally explore the labyrinthine treasures of the modern bureaucratic system. Since the two trails will be on either public or private property, some kind of rearrangement of ownership will have to be worked through in order to cultivate this new trail.
Assessment: Learners should finish this long-term project with the skills to add their own walking trails to an expanding system. Before starting, the group should set their intentions and reflect on their experiences with this sort of work. What kind of trails have you walked through before? What did you admire, and what disappointed you about previous trail experiences? Which part of this town is most walkable, and which is most aggressively anti-pedestrian? What would a walking trail do for the local ecology? What would our trail mean for connections between neighborhoods or sections of the greater city area? What are your expectations for the challenges this work will present? Afterwards there will be much to discuss. What difficulties were unforeseen, and how did we conquer them? Who stood in our way, and how did we crush them? What sort of compromises did we have to make in order to be successful? How are people using our trail? What sort of more-than-human communities have been changed by our work? If we each did this again, perhaps with a different group, what would we change? How was our communication during the process? Who stepped up during the physical work, and who stepped up during the advocacy work? How can we do this again?
Materials: For the trailbuilding, the tools will depend on the terrain. Likely the group will need shovels, saws, snips, axes, and other forestry equipment. I like to stay away from power tools so that conversations can continue during the work, but each group can decide on their own. For the advocacy work, simply showing up to the right places and talking to the right people may be enough to get it done.
Lesson Title: How To Melt Your Brain Out Your Ears
Intended Learners: Learners aged 14+ interested in listening, seeing, and feeling more than the usual, and/or sublimating their sense of identity to a comfortable greenspace.
Learning Objectives: To cultivate awareness of all things using all senses in all directions. To practice mindfulness techniques and slow down the endless chattering of the modern brain.
Procedures: The group will be led out into a wooded area at dawn. First, all will sit in a circle, and share things they noticed on the walk. This can be anything, from big colors in the sky to the smallest buzzing of a flea. Then, the group will participate in a mindfulness meditation involving slow breath and open listening.
Participants will then be encouraged to find a comfortable but secluded place and move as little as possible during the next few hours. Speaking will not be a part of this activity, and neither will writing, reading, fidgeting, crafting, or any other distracting behavior. Participants will be instructed to completely melt in with their surroundings.
After a short, small, and silent lunch - an empty stomach encourages an empty mind - participants will be led in a different meditative activity. Until dusk, they will return to their spots and continue to melt.
At the end of the session, all participants will be brought back together for an excellent feast, where all will be encouraged to share the previously-hidden experiences they uncovered.
Assessment: At the beginning of the day, participants will be invited to share what they noticed on the way to the activity location. At the end of the day, they will be encouraged to share their experiences of the day. These conversations should be mostly unstructured and open - no turns or hand-raisings. The facilitator should do their best to keep the conversation moving and invite quieter participants to share, but only if they have the desire.
Materials: A very light lunch of fresh produce and a hearty feast for dinner. Everyone should bring weather-appropriate clothes and footwear.