Land as teacher

Developing a land-connected creative writing pedagogy

In February 2018, I ran a workshop alongside Jo Goldsmid – we travelled to Brighton on a cold winter afternoon to experience the starling murmuration with a mindful approach, and then retired to the back room of a pub to write about it. The idea was to use creative writing to explore, build, and strengthen our connection with the land and with nature. The writing that came out of the workshop was really powerful, and we had great feedback from participants.

Inspired by this experiment, I spent the first half of 2018 researching ideas for a land-connected creative writing pedagogy, as part of my MA in Creative Writing and Education. This work allowed me to bring my sense of connection with nature into my teaching – using it as a tool to come up with exciting new ways to engage with our environment, whether in urban or rural areas. Nurturing these connections is essential to creating more respectful and sustainable ways of living on our planet, and creative writing is a powerful way to do this.

This essay was developed into an article that was published in the National Association of Writers in Education’s journal, Writing in Education [78].

From the article:

“I believe that the key to changing the way we relate to the land is to transform our sense of belonging, and that a liberating creative writing pedagogy is one powerful way to do this. By valuing students’ funds of knowledge and building communities of practice which involve the land and nature, writing about place can validate and develop students’ sense of belonging and connection, which in turn encourages protection and nurturance of the land. This has radical consequences for people who are marginalised, and is part of the project of celebrating difference and building community and belonging around the places we live. This approach provides rich material for writing and can help students to write vivid, imaginative, and evocative poetry which brings place alive for the reader. Perhaps that writing will spark something in a future reader which begins the cycle again, inspiring them to connect with and protect the places that are important to them.”

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