Nature on our Doorsteps // SUMMER BLOG 19
Welcome back to the Studio Cultivate website and our seasonal blog.
Summer is now certainly underway and is centre stage across our educational programmes. The Kindergarden crew (Early Years Foundation Stage) have begun modelling enormous flowers and bees in order to explore the amazing processes of pollination and honey creation. In Merristems (Key Stage I+II) pupils are watching with great anticipation as their schools’ edible gardens mature. Later this summer it will be time to harvest these plants and create some delicious (and nutritious) raw dishes. Carrot Sushi anyone? We will also be dipping our Merristem toes into the world of Karl Linnaeus and taxonomy. The PlayGreen adventures at the Chelsea Physic Garden continue and we will be completing a run of sold out Friars and Frenzies workshops (our unique, botanical take on Romeo and Juliet) this June. There remain some tickets available for Dinner with Dinosaurs in August, so if you fancy meeting the plants that met the dinosaurs do grab yourselves some tickets at this link.
On a more sombre note, I was fortunate to catch Radio 4’s ‘Costing the Earth – The State of Nature’ earlier this month. The panel, led by the passionate and articulate Sir Bob Watson were discussing the recently published Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services report on The State of Nature. Two of the many terrifying stats to emerge from the report were-
1 million species (of the 8 million we know) face imminent extinction from this planet if we continue to farm, fish and procreate the way we do today.
We have degraded or converted 75% of the earth’s land area.
The programme’s 2nd half took a more positive ‘what can be done?’ tone and it was the contribution form Erica McAlister from the Natural History Museum that really struck a chord. Her thoughts on addressing this terrifying slide were as follows-
Humans need “to cease seeing themselves as ‘other’ to the natural world,” and to
“…..realise that we are incredibly integrated in all ecosystems.....that whatever we do has an effect on the ecosystems around the world”
…that we should begin to understand the natural world by looking no further than “the nature that is happening at our doorsteps”.
I believe there is a huge amount of truth in these statements. For society to begin to address these ecological issue, individuals need to feel relevance in their daily actions. Whilst images of a retreating glacier or Amazonian deforestation may be highly dramatic, I would argue that these images feel sufficiently distant to dissuade people from getting in their cars or from eating burgers.
As McAlister states, an amazing place to begin to develop a sense of relevance is to look no further than these ‘doorstep’ ecosystems. What better way to feel part of the huge global picture than to acquaint yourself with what is happening in your garden, park, playground or shed? An increased familiarity of these lives and the processes that link them (and us) is also a great way of realising how fragile the natural world can be as a result of many of our inadvertent and trivial actions.
This is very much what we strive to do with our work at Studio Cultivate. Through garden creation within schools we demonstrate how easy it can be to have a positive impact on the natural world and through story telling and a number of practical learning mediums we help pupils begin to observe the wonderful processes occurring beneath their noses.
Here’s some of these processes we shall be celebrating this summer-
Aphid-Farming Ants: Look out for ants busily moving aphids to areas of sap-heavy, new plant growth. As they suck on sap, these aphids excrete sweet honey-dew poo which the ants cannot get enough of!
Beautiful Thugs: Hunt for the beautiful but destructive Rosemary Beetle as it prepares for mating by chomping through flower and foliage of lavender, rosemary and sage.
Returning Butterflies: Welcome in the immense Red Admiral butterfly, freshly arrived from Northern Africa.
Seeds on the Run: Check out graceful Lime Tree samaras- the winged fruit that launch into the air in search of a patch of soil away from their mother tree.
Foraging Feasts: Feast on the leaves (beech), flowers (Elder) and fruit (hawthorne) from street and park trees as they reach their zenith of summer productivity.
We hope that by participating in our workshops pupils will begin to realise the cog that they are in a very large and very complex natural world.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Frankie Haynes for all her amazing work with our website and digital communications over the last 6 months. We wish her all the best for her maternity leave.
I leave you with some things that have inspired us over the last few months.
BBC R4 Podcast Costing the Earth -The State of Nature
‘Listening to the Land’; Jim Crumley; Elementum ‘A Journal of Nature and Story’
The output of Guy Watson of Riverford Organic Farm. See Riverford newsletter
…and this lovely poem from Lilian Moore
How did you get here,
Who brought your seed?
Did it lift
On the wind and
From a far and yellow field?
Was your seed a
A sticky burr that
Clung to a fox’s
Did it fly with a
Who liked to feed
On the tasty
Of the yellow weed?
How did you come?