Relational Education - Weaving Earth

Relational Education Why : What : How

Why Relational Education?

Tremendous complexity, unrest, and unpredictability characterize this moment on Earth. Local, regional and global problems gather into a wave of great magnitude and urgency: climate destabilization, massive inequity, political unrest and polarization, systems of oppression, biological and cultural extinction, a hyper-extractive global economy, and the ongoing impacts of colonization. This list of entangled challenges is both incomplete and overwhelming.

These are complex systemic problems and they are also deeply personal. They are modern, but they emerge from thousands of years of history, propelled by countless stories of domination, violence, fear and the forced separation of humans from both community and nature.

Weaving Earth joins a chorus of voices rising throughout time who know and imagine that humanity is capable of much more than destruction and division. Many people and communities already embody this—and have for a long time. Responding to the complexity of our times requires ways of being, feeling, perceiving and thinking that transform the dominant narratives that have enabled “western,” white supremacist, cis-heteropatriarchal society to bring so many and so much to the tipping point. Education today must critically engage inherited stories of separation and domination, and at the same time responsibly recollect a more profound human inheritance: stories of interrelationship, belonging, dignity and respect. From this orientation, the conditions for real systems-change begin to emerge.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.”

Howard Zinn, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

Any system—ecological, social, economic or otherwise—is characterized not only by the elements within the system but especially by the relationships between those elements. What if every challenge we face is, in essence, a crisis of relationship? Inspired by this question, Weaving Earth has focused on creating educational experiences aimed at re-membering and strengthening our relationships to self, to community and to the planet upon which we all depend. As educators, our guiding question is: “How do we educate for our times?” Relational Education is our evolving response.

What is Relational Education?

Relational Education is a nature-based, experiential learning model that deepens relationships in support of socio-ecological systems that enhance life, love, and justice, within and between.

The pedagogy strives to instill the following. Human beings:

  • are relational by nature;
  • are inherently interconnected with each other and all other life on the planet;
  • can be beneficial participants within biological ecosystems;
  • are capable of cooperation, compassion, generosity, and love;
  • contain vision, creativity, and talents to offer;
  • can learn how histories of violence and domination have impacted them;
  • can awaken to how they are complicit in and perpetuating ongoing harm;
  • can make and receive reparations for historical harm;
  • can develop and sustain relationships that enable us to transcend past divisions of power and privilege.

Ultimately, for conditions on this planet to change, we have to believe that change is possible. Relational Education nourishes that belief and equips participants with tools to turn their visions of freedom, equity, justice and ecological health into action.

“As Toni Cade Bambara has taught us, we must make just and liberated futures irresistible. We are all the protagonists of what might be called the great turning, the change, the new economy, the new world. And I think it is healing behavior, to look at something so broken and see the possibility and wholeness in it. We are all healers…we are creating possibilities, because we are seeing a future full of wholeness.”

adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy

How Does Relational Education Work?

Relational Education is guided by the wisdom of biomimicry. Like nature, Relational Education is:

  • site-specific, attuning to the ecological and cultural dimensions of place;
  • always evolving, growing and changing to meet emergent conditions;
  • a nursery for interdependence and differentiation.

Relational Education is an experiential approach to learning that strives to engage more than just the mind: it invites the body, the heart and the human spirit into the learning process as well. It emphasizes curiosity and direct sensory engagement with the wild world, awakening embodied connections and fostering reciprocal relationships with nature, self and others. Relational Education emphasizes intersections and interrelationships and prioritizes the ability to ask and follow good questions, acknowledging that every answer earned leads to more good questions. Learning takes place in a “Community of Practice,” in which participants explore, make mistakes, and grow together through human-to-human relationships.

“Education,” from the Latin educare, means “to draw forth.” The educator’s role is thus to support the cultivation of a student’s relationship to their innate curiosity, creative vision, personal authority, and unique contribution. We believe that one of the quickest and most powerful ways to do this is to help each other to think, feel and act as part of the whole. Once we re-member ourselves as an integral part of a web of relationships, our identity, design decisions and every-day choices become connected to that web. Via the simple and profound act of engaging in activities that highlight our interrelationship, we nourish our own source with the wisdom of the whole, and can summon creativity, experience and wisdom to meet the challenges of today in support of the maturation of tomorrow.

Please see our Core Curriculum for further details on Relational Education practices.

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