Sharing Passion for Curiosity and Wonder in Ghana
Reflection from August 2023 experience in Senchi, Eastern Region of Ghana
In recent years I started introducing myself as an environmental education practitioner who teaches people how to see. With my gig Wild Rose Education, I teach people 'how to see', to become better observers, and how to take action in the world through participant-centered learning experiences. I fully believe teaching people to notice what they see, stay curious, ask questions, and then telling the world about their observations can change the world. This is a universal practice. Teaching people this skill of observation and curiosity is not bounded by culture, language, or landscape; it is truly a shared language of discovery.
A few days before I embarked on an epic international adventure to visit Ghana in West Africa, a leader from the village I was visiting invited me to prepare to teach an activity for the local village kids. Initially, I was surprised that they would ask me to teach something about nature and science when I live on the other side of the planet, in a completely different ecosystem and context and have no idea what lives, grows, and moves amongst the ecosystem there. Rather than teach about the place I knew nothing about, I decided to share skills and practices.
Field science observation skills and practices are universal, applicable, and relevant in nearly every geographic and community context. I happened to have a collection of give-away hand lenses and magnifying glasses stored in a box under my desk. I have a tremendous repository of field science teaching routines and activities. I love teaching young people (and humans in general) naturalist skills helping them become better observers, to become more curious, communicate their findings, and understand that this is what scientist do too. Putting all this together, I packed the hand lenses, a dry erase board and markers, and knew I could facilitate something meaningful for these kids.
Upon arriving to visit the Ewe tribe young people in Senchi village south of Atimpoku along the east side of the Volta River (now a reservoir as it is dammed up for a hydropower project), in the Eastern Region of Ghana (map), I was awe struck at how people and families are living there today. It was such a different context than what I had ever experienced with simple homes, outdoor kitchens, no running water, not much electricity, no washing machines, and many other circumstances different than anything I knew. And at the same time, there was a very familiar to me small community vibe. Around the world people are people, and kids are kids. They had big welcoming generous hearts, curious minds, and wanted to learn and interact with me. We walked through the neighborhood to meet the young people gathered under a large mango tree. I quickly rearranged all the chairs into a circle rather than the typical student-teacher configuration in order to create a more collective shared experience.
Witnessing the engagement of the young people exploring their mango tree through the eyes of magnification was amazing. I don't think these kids had never seen or used a magnifying glass. I demonstrated how to effectively use hand lenses and had to also explain they can be used to start fires. I don’t have any memory of the first time I saw something magnified, I take this hand-held technology for granted. I am so curious what the kids (and the few mothers) must have been the feeling and thinking as they saw their ordinary tree's leaves in a whole new way. Using the I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of inquiry routine, I gave them tools to expand their capacity for curiosity, wonder, and awe. I gave them a gift of seeing their world with a new expansive generative eyes and lens.
And for me, being on the other side of the planet sharing in this universal language of seeing, being curious, and wondering about possibilities was such an authentic moment of connection, relationship, and realness that I will hold on to for a very long time.
Then, a boy asked, "Can you teach us about climate change?" read part 2 of this 2 part blog.
** This morning was only 1 day of a 3 week adventure visiting Land of Peace Art Village in Senchi, volunteering as a leadership facilitator for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Celebrating Us event at Kusafiri World Center in the capital city of Accra, visiting Cape Coast Castle UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visiting Kakum National Park.