Blogger’s note: This commentary expands on the class Children and Nature: Rediscovering a sense of wonder, by reflecting on the potential for a deeper level of eco-consciousness. During a one week course at Schumacher College in 2010 (with teachers Richard Louv and Kathy Louv) Jan van Boeckel helped participants look at why nature is important for children’s development and creativity, and how the “nature gap” can be bridged. It included outdoor arts-based workshops and experiential exercises which can be used in environmental education contexts.

This entry cross-cuts eco-artistic expression with the screening of Beneath the Blue (BtB) at the 2010 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

BtB was originally titled "Way of the Dolphin" and is an environmentally themed adventure story that is inspired by actual events and real scientific issues. Facets explored in the film include the conflict between environmentalists and the U.S. Navy over sonar testing that kills whales and dolphins. The film also depicts dolphin scientist and activist Ken Levasseur’s Third Phase Alternative to Dolphin Captivity, and explores the issue of the limits of animal consciousness and human-dolphin communication.

Going Nature Native; The Way of the Dolphin

One of the characteristics of arts-based environmental education is the encouragement to get out of mind and move into a receptive (body meditating) state with nature. For children this is de facto; the world is experienced afresh.

Often for adults, long removed from natural rhythm, sensation and experience seeing through the child's eye can often be visualized best through Eco-art. To peer at a plant, an animal or even a landscape as if we see it for the first time can be an artistic alchemy.

Jan van Boeckel of the research group on arts-based environmental education Aalto University, School of Art and Design, Helsinki has focused on the 'intertwining' with nature that causes the subject to sever the 'life lines' to the world which would enable him or her to maintain the psychological, cultural and spiritual integrity of the ego. The dissolving of the ego’s boundaries through artistic expression can be seen as having certain esoteric qualities -specifically when the potential exists to explore the issue of trans-species animal consciousness and communication such as human-dolphin symbolic encounters.

Father of Dolphin Research
While extensive work has been done with floatation and sensory deprivation to immerse, transcend and reach a body meditating state by Dr. John C. Lilly. (Known, in part, for his work with dolphins and interspecies communication. His work with dolphins and whales created a global awareness that led to the enactment of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972.) With the 2010 release of a film called Beneath the Blue we're seeing both a pragmatic appreciation and artistic expression informing this discourse.

Van Boeckel's effort to explore the connection with other animal species is examined through ontological phenomenon that make up our very sense of "being". Unfettered Dionysian immersion in the ecstatic along with the distinction between Apollonian versus Dionysian sensibility in cultural activity are further articulated by, among others, Nietzsche and Robert J. Pirsig.

As a result Van Boeckel has formulated some pedagogical implications for teachers and facilitators encouraging an attitude of radical amazement and vulnerability in arts-based environmental education.

To learn more about utilizing the arts to engage the public in dialogue about a social concern, as well as communicating about environmental concerns and functioning as catalysts for activism on a variety of social topics see:

Art, water, and circles: In what ways do study circles empower arti... by Jacoby, Jill Beth, Ph.D., ANTIOCH UNIVERSITY, 2009.

Mission of the Research Group
To increase understanding of the added value of employing artistic methods in education about nature, develop new methods and concepts for arts-based environmental education, and act as an information sharing platform.

For a cute film to show children a message of friendship/animal interaction and communication between dolphin and dog see:

"In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the mind, there are no limits."

Dr. John C. Lilly, Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer

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