Throughout our conversation with Sarah Pottle and Jess Boeke, we unravel the richness of regenerative education and its potential impact on our communities, teachers, students, and the broader educational landscape. We discuss themes of interconnection and interdependence, bringing to light the human aspects often lost in our industrialized education system. From this conversation, you will see that regenerative education is not just a theoretical concept, but a practical tool that has the potential to reenergize classrooms, increase student engagement, and inspire educators.
(0:00:20) – Exploring Regenerative Education
Sarah and Jess discuss regenerative education, living systems, textile art, farming, yoga, breathwork and herbalism to create a regenerative future.
(0:13:17) – The Power of Interconnection in Education
Interconnection and interdependence anchor teaching, breaking down artificial separations to better understand our connection.
(0:22:10) – Regenerative Education and Youth Engagement
Sarah and Jess explore regenerative education, interconnection, interdependence, and how to reenergize classrooms.
(0:30:14) – Inspiring Students With Place-Based Education
Sarah and Jess explore regenerative education, systemic changes in public schools, and interconnection to engage students.
(0:35:20) – Exploring Education and Diverse Practices
Sarah and Jess offer book clubs, skill shares, and collective information to educators, exploring incremental change and their spheres of influence.
(0:47:29) – Principles and Practices of Regenerative Living
Sarah and Jess discuss regenerative education, interconnection, indigenous practices, and trusting ourselves to make meaningful change.
(0:51:53) – Podcast Resources and Contact Information
We Are Verbs Study Club explores meaningful learning and trust for educators.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being
0:00:20 – Anna: Welcome to Creative Praxis. I’m Anna Griffith, an assistant professor in the School of Creative Arts at the University of the Fraser Valley.
0:00:28 – Kyla: And I am Kyla Mitchell-Marquess, an undergraduate honor psychology student focusing on gender and sexuality at the University of the Fraser Valley and a research assistant for the podcast.
0:00:37 – Anna: As we begin I would like to acknowledge that for me, this conversation today is happening on the traditional and contemporary territory of the Sto:lo peoples– a group of Halq’eméylem speaking nations with deep connections to the Fraser River. In our exploration of regenerative education, and in our thinking about what it means to regenerate, I am continually reminded of how Indigenous knowledge systems often hold deep ecological wisdom and an expanded sense of what terms like interdependence mean.
But another aspect I was mulling over on my drive in, is about how Sto:lo peoples, and others, also have intimate knowledge of what regeneration means in the context of colonialism, attempted genocide, and land theft. And my hope is that as we look to the ways Sto:lo languages, laws, and practices are being rejuvenated, we can learn some lessons there as well. And although this is a serious note to begin on, our guests today are people whose work on regenerative education is full of hope. They are experts at gathering people together and encouraging us to try new things, to see differently, and to offer our unique skills to the world around us.
0:01:05 – Kyla: Based in Cleveland, Sarah Pottle brings a deep experience of teaching, coaching, & training, having worked with over a thousand teachers and leaders in 50+ schools across the USA. A National-Board Certified ELA teacher with a Master’s degree in Education, Sarah has taught and coached thousands of students, teachers, and school leaders over the past 18 years in her career in education.
0:01:25 – Anna: Sarah was an advisor on the Federal Department of Education working group for virtual instruction during the pandemic, was a Keynote speaker at Wharton School of Education, and has worked closely with over 40 districts and charter networks in the US to improve instruction, leadership, community engagement, and vertical alignment. From that birds-eye view, it was easy for Sarah to see that we’re missing the opportunity for education to be a force for a regenerative future.
0:01:50 – Kyla: Sarah’s love for life comes through in all of her work, including her work in co-founding a local non-profit focused on regeneration, her training in permaculture design, health coaching, as well as her own practices of textile art, farming, and, most importantly: being a mom.
0:02:05 – Anna: Also, based in Cleveland, Jess Bow-key is a National Board-Certified high school English teacher, yoga teacher, community activist, and herbalist. She is a seasoned educator who has transformed her English classroom into a Regenerative Ed workspace for her students, and is pushing the limits to see what is possible in one classroom.
0:02:24 – Kyla: Jess brings in her love and stewardship of all living beings, as well as her interest in permaculture plants, yoga and breathwork, to coach her students towards leading lives full of meaning. She created the Ed Shed program for place-based asset-in-form education and has also co-founded a nonprofit to create regenerative systems for local textiles and works closely with farmers, researchers and students to emphasize local futures.
0:02:46 – Anna: It is such an honor to be able to speak with both of you today. Welcome, Sarah and Jess.
0:02:52 – Sarah: It’s so great to be here. Thanks so much for having us, and I anticipate that our voices might get a little mixed up as we both talk, as with our twin voices. Yeah, thank you so much for having us today. We’re so excited to be here.
0:03:09 – Kyla: Excellent. So, to begin from your perspective, can you describe what regenerative education is and how it differs from other approaches to education, like place-based learning, education for sustainable development or transformative learning?
0:03:23 – Sarah: Yeah. So I guess a good place to start is just with the word regenerative in general, and Jess and I were talking about this. And one thing that is interesting is four years ago when we started the podcast, we were thinking about sort of what the platform could be for, how we get the podcast out there and some of the other work that we do related to the podcast, and to do that you need funding and we’re thinking about, okay, llc business and we were thinking about using the word regenerative education for what that platform would be and we’re like actually no, we don’t want to regenerative ed trademark you know what I mean Like any sort of, like this is our thing. We call the podcast regenerative ed because it’s a way for people to find it, that we think it’s a term that people can grasp onto. But even that term is like sustainability or some other terms. It can mean so many things to so many different people and that can sometimes be harmful or greenwashed or manipulated or whatever it may be. So just to kind of put that out there first, that what we really mean when we’re thinking about regeneration is the ability for things to thrive. So it’s the opposite of separation and extraction it is do we have systems in place that are bringing more life into whatever it may be? And so the way that we can look at that is that living systems that are in harmony and balance. What do those things do? And so that’s where we draw that inspiration from. So that is sort of the overarching idea behind what the term that we use as regeneration and I think where it differs in just chime in whenever you want here, but where it differs between some of those things that you mentioned is that it’s the way that I like to think about it is much less complicated. It’s not like a trademarked or like a Maslow’s capital M hierarchy of needs, capital H. It’s just are we working to build more life? Behind something Like a more of an overarching question.
So let’s take each one of those things that you mentioned. Like let’s start first with transformative education. By my understanding, transformative education is sort of using this feedback loop to understand that we are always learning. So it’s like you’re not just putting in knowledge and taking. That’s my understanding of it. It’s probably a very rote understanding of it, but if we are doing that, sure that’s. You know that’s rejected. Are you learning more? Is there more life or is this? Is any part of this feeling extractive? I don’t think so. You know, it probably depends on who’s doing capital T, capital L, transformative learning, how they’re doing transformative learning, and I would be wary of anything that just slaps a sticker on something and says this is transformative learning. So we approve of everything in it, you know, because there are human beings inside of there and it’s a living system. But, yeah, the idea of looking at feedback and understanding ourselves as curious people who are always trying to learn more from that we learned before sounds great. It sounds really good.
Um, when it comes to, uh, education for sustainable development, that is, you know, some of those goals are amazing. We’re thinking about like a future world that is really going to thrive, and we’ve identified, I think, there’s like 17 or 18 goals that just sound like that is the world I want to live in. You know, like, yes, absolutely. Um, and I know that there’s a lot of stuff in depth for educational for sustainable development. There’s a lot of different steps, there’s a lot of ways to think about it. Um, I think, what regenerative ed, you know, and again, like lowercase R, lowercase E, right? Um, what, what that can do is just say like, okay, in transformation or in education for sustainable development, is there anything in there that maybe the way we’re doing it, the how we’re going about it, is there anything in that that’s extractive Cause?
It’s not just about the content. One of the things that we focus on, jess and I, when we’re doing like we’re talking about the stuff, is like four elements of it. So there’s the content, and that would be like the what you’re teaching, the curriculum, that sort of thing, like the stuff that we usually think about when we think about education, that that that’s what comes up first. Right, what is the content that we’re teaching? But there’s so much more to it. There’s the who of the teacher that’s bringing themself into that classroom where things just sort of sneak out of you and you might not even realize that things are coming out of you, right? Um, it’s just how you grew up, right, and that’s modeling. Okay, that that’s you as the human teacher. That’s modeling.
So we have content, we have modeling, like the way you talk, we have pedagogy, which is that how you do it, right? So how are you interacting with your students in a way that offers reciprocity and doesn’t, like you know, cause more separation, okay, so all you’re teaching about things like global poverty, right? Is there? Are you coming in with any sort of impoverished attitudes? So that’s sort of one thing that we’re thinking about. And then community so it’s like content modeling, pedagogy, community, right, how are we pulling all these things together? And that’s not capital R, capital E, regenerative ed the four parts of regenerative ed. That’s just like what I think about.
That’s helpful, um, I think, when it comes to place-based learning and just chime in here, um, because Jess has done a lot of work with place-based learning, uh, when it comes to thinking about how to use it in her classroom, so I’ll, I’ll stop for a moment and just let her kind of chime in. Well, sarah, I think that you kind of nailed it talking about those other two. And I guess you know, when we’re talking about place-based learning, all of these things overlap, right? Um? And all of these things can be and are, in their own ways, regenerative forms of education, right? Um, when we think of and you know, I think of it like an ed shed is the way I like to think of it our educational community, we think of that place-based learning. You know what is what? What is the regeneration that’s happening there.
If I’m having my students um connect with a local business, a local community business, but that business is really strapped for time, you know. But maybe they’ve committed the previous five years. Every year they’ve worked with my students and this year they’re trying to like, maybe express that they don’t have the capacity. But I’m like, come on, you gotta help. You know, and I make, I guilt them into it. That is not a regenerative uh process, right, I’m not respecting them as human beings.
So you know how do we work within. You know, and you can think of it as like a kind of inested system of, like yourself, your community, your place, you know, and how far you want that to radiate out. You can think of it like the sphere of influence, of what you can uh influence from you know, yourself, rating, radiating out. But you know all of this is supposed to be, um, you know, healthy for our people, our places, our land, and that includes the teachers, that includes, you know, any of the stakeholders that are involved in education, including, you know, for talking about the public school system, you know, the board, uh, you know, including the parents, um, you know if I have this really great idea and it.
You know, all of these parents. I’m expecting all these parents to be involved. Speaking of, sorry, my little ones having a little tough time over here. Um, you know, if I’m expecting all of those parents to be involved but they can’t be, are they going to feel guilty? How am I making them feel as part of this whole system? And so you know that is part of the. When we think of regeneration and, uh, the regenerative capacity of play space, learning, I think you know we have to think of those things as well. Yeah.
0:11:56 – Anna: So I’m I really like this attention on systems, and I know that you both, uh like talk about systems um and systems thinking quite a lot, and one of the ways that I have, I think, maybe how I found myself thinking about regenerative education lowercase r, lowercase e um is because I’m really interested in permaculture and regenerative um agriculture and these other practices that that I think have a lot of guidance for us as educators, um, and I really so I really I wanted to recognize that you’re both really doing some really incredible work.
That’s really inspiring thinking about this, this idea of an Ed Shed um, this nested system, where education isn’t just kind of this transmission from teacher to student. That it’s so, it’s so deeply organic and, as you said, there’s overlaps with a lot of other nice good uh, pedagogical practices and, and I sort of think of it as this, this way of being, and so I really uh resonate with what you said, Sarah, as this kind of mindset, almost, um, rather than a pedagogy that has specific competencies, um, although I think that there’s maybe some, some capacity building that um that we can do for students and for ourselves as teachers. So I’m really interested um, since you both really understand education through a living systems lens. Um, how can like, as a very kind of first entry point, how can understanding, interconnection or even interdependence really help to anchor us in our teaching?
0:13:29 – Jess: Do you want to take a gesture? Do you want me to? I feel like, um, I mean, and I not just I feel like this, but I think I know it is that right separation is an illusion and we’re not separate from anything, um. And so when we say, you know, what does connection have to do with it? Um, it’s sort of like what it all is, and not to get too like up in the air, you know in the head and thinking about, like whoa, it’s everything, like, but um, I, I mean, I don’t know what it would be without connection.
Because I think one of the problems and I guess maybe I’ll start here is that what we’ve tried to do in education up to this point is silo everything and make things artificially complicated that aren’t actually that complicated, like so even the idea of having all these different pedagogical approaches and trying to think about which is the best one. As a, let’s say, I’m a school leader and I’m trying to adopt an approach with a capital letter, and I don’t know why I’m so fixated on this capital letter thing, but like I’m trying to adopt an approach to the capital letter so that I can sell it to my board. Not sell, but like I can say, this is what we’re doing, there’s good research behind it, because if it’s a capital letter thing, it’ll probably have research behind it and so we can move forward with it, which I think, because of how the system is constructed, because of all these things that we have to do to jump through hoops to make sure that things are, you know, in a certain way, because systems are so large also that we’ve lost a lot of trust between things where I just say like I think this is a good approach, and someone says like yeah, but does it? Doesn’t have a capital letter, doesn’t have clinical you know what I mean. Like all this stuff, it’s like those are good things. Yes, they are, because it does prove that there are things that we can do and we need some of those things. First, because our systems are so large right now. Right, and so, like, what do we do in the meantime? We have to have some proof behind so that we can share this, these good approaches, with people.
But all of that silos out sort of this, these like individual approaches and these individual things, and it sort of helps create more of the separation between things. And that’s just thinking about like new approaches to how we’re thinking about changing education. But I mean within the education system itself. We have separate grade levels, we have separate content areas. There’s so much separation it’s it’s like it exists in all these different silos without that connection.
So pulling people together and showing that we actually are we can work as one thing and that is how the world works when we’re not modeling stuff after like a industrial sort of model for things. When we look at how my Icelium in the soil functions right, when we look at how ecosystems are that we are a part of, we can see why this big block of education that’s so industrial and square, you know right angle corners and stuff, why it doesn’t seem to work so well. It’s because it doesn’t really belong. It’s not a natural occurring thing and so naturally occurring things do connect to and and don’t artificially separate things, to silo things out, to show problems that you can sell a solution to the problem. You know it just feels like it’s so much more complicated than it has to be.
We come out of, you know, we’re born wanting to learn things immediately and so the irony that, like when we’re in a school, we don’t want to learn things right, it’s so, it’s so not how it’s supposed to be. And so, yeah, I mean, I think a lot of that has to do just with, like the way that we do artificially separate everything else out, and if we could bring back the understanding and the remembering that we are all connected, not even just like that we have to reconnect, but like, hey, we are connected. Yeah, I mean, I feel like that’s that is you know what we can work towards simple things like breaking down grade levels. You know and I say simple it’s not simple because there’s teacher licensure, there’s there’s union contracts, there’s all these things. I’m talking public school right now specifically but but breaking down some of those artificial things that we actually may realize that we don’t need, it’s a good step.
And just to add real quick, it’s interesting because you know the connections that we do have now when we compare and I’m just talking public schools but schools across the nation or internationally are all on these quantitative measures and that’s kind of how the schools connect. They very much connect the all of these, these measurements that are very much a measure of the industrialized system and not the human parts of the system. So we have this almost illusion of connection of like, oh, we’re doing what this, this school out in California, is doing with test scores and test prep and you know and, and we’re all going to go to a regional conference and we’re all going to talk about pedagogy and how we’re doing this and how we can bump up test scores, and yeah. So sorry about that. But yeah, I mean, I feel like that’s just kind of how we’re mostly connecting now is through this industrialized system.
0:19:06 – Anna: And some of these systems, like, are, as you said, overly complex and and not functioning there.
There, the biases built into them, the extension of really problematic extractivist power higher. There’s so many problems with the systems. And then another thing that I was I was thinking about is, as you were both speaking, is how, just remembering, yes, we are all, we are all already connected and there’s a, there’s a freedom as a teacher in that to recognize that okay, maybe, maybe I will be okay if I can just trust my, my creativity and my intuition and find ways to connect with my students, to foster these experiences where students connect with one another, with the larger community, maybe even with land or place. I think there’s some, some confidence that can be developed there and I feel like that’s really freeing. Speaking as a, as a teacher who has had to go through, like I’m learning, all of the systems that I was put through to then find my own way of being a teacher, yeah, yeah, but unlearning is so key of like not thinking that we have all of the, all the information and all the knowledge.
0:20:19 – Sarah: As a teacher, you know it’s that’s. It’s hard because we are ego and her bias says that like we’re the ones in charge of the authority, right.
0:20:27 – Anna: Yeah, totally. But it’s so exciting to when you can actually learn along with students, to try things out, to fail, and then to be honest with people that you’re working with about these attempts and these things that didn’t go quite right. It humanizes us and I think that, in terms of modeling, that’s a great model to have.
0:20:50 – Kyla: Yes, definitely. What comes to mind for me is like, just in this whole discussion about this idea of like siloing off and this like false idea of separation, was the work we did last year and with the creativity lab in terms of just we got together people from the students, professors from different disciplines, different, completely different jobs together and it was so generative, so generative and like you hear ideas from people from different disciplines, that and different perspective that you wouldn’t even think and then it’s like putting puzzle pieces together and creating this, just all, creating this whole idea right and, yes, when we had to get really creative with it Super creative Sorry, that’s my cat as well and that makes me think too.
0:21:31 – Jess: That makes me think too. That’s so exciting because I mean, when I think of the youth that I teach, you know, I teach 17, 18 year olds and I’m an English teacher, so in a public school, so the expectation is a very siloed approach to teaching English 17, 18 year olds, you know. But I am very lucky that I do have a little bit of flexibility in my curriculum where I can design certain things. But even without that, you know, just in talking to students, these seven, to these students, like there is so much energy and hope in the future of trying to do things differently. You know, I feel like the generation of, like I don’t know, where there’s nothing we can do, it’s hopeless. I don’t think that that is where this next generation is. I think they see that they’re going to be the ones that can fix the problem and you know they think they’re smarter than generations anyways. So they have that going for them and so that means that there’s a lot of hope. And you know they want to have conversations about important topics, they want to be engaged in thinking about the future and how they can fix it, and that for me is just so exciting. It’s like if we just give them a space, like you were just talking, kyla, about having a container for these sorts of discussions, like that’s what what it’s to be. Is this container for emergence, right? What is going to come? We don’t even know. We don’t know the possibilities, you know, but we have to give that space for youth to have these generative conversations.
Yeah, and that diversity principle there is so key too.
If you look at any ecosystem, particularly wetland ecosystems, where the most diversity exists in those systems, it’s where the wet meets the dry, the water meets the land, and those overlapping areas are where there’s the most diversity. That’s where things are thriving. So, thinking about where our edges are rounded and where we can overlap things a little bit more and create more of that edge effect, if we take that living systems principle into design, thinking about designing things like your creative class that you were talking about, pulling all those different people in, is so generative and so how can we do that more in just every day? And it’s not just people, it’s different, it’s not just like race. There’s different diversity and pedagogical approaches. There’s diversity inside, outside. There’s diversity in so many different ways that you can think about diversity and that is really such an exciting thing that we can really hang our hats on, I think, and say, yes, there’s this energy behind diversity, and it’s not just a thing that is your DEI check off the box sort of thing. It is actually vital for living systems to thrive.
0:24:42 – Anna: I agree with you so 100% and, as you say, find these. Even if we are constrained by curriculum, by school policies, we still have the opportunity, as we are the ones in the classroom spaces, to reimagine how we do that, and I think that we I’m just reminded that we have this, I think, ethical responsibility as the educators in this moment to offer these spaces up and be directed by these younger people who see, still with hope and creativity, that it hasn’t fully been quashed out of them, and I really think that that’s our responsibility as the educators of this time to get out of the way, because there’s so much research on it all the time, there’s more papers being written and research being done, so we need to just listen to that and then actually start applying it. Go ahead, Jess.
0:25:38 – Sarah: I was just going to say, to speak to that a little bit, as a public school teacher. There are many of my colleagues and just other public school teachers that I know will say that, well, regenerative education is great, but it’s not possible for me in this container of public school. It’s great for unschoolers, it’s great for homeschoolers, maybe even charter schools, but how can I do that Kind of what you were saying, just to kind of echo that we all can do, if it is not a technical, again with the capital letters, if this is just a matter of bringing more life to your space? So that is contagious. What does that look like? That looks like more flow, that looks like more ease, that looks like a deeper care for people and places around us. There’s limitless amounts of ways that we can do that as a public school teacher in my classroom, that I can do that and all of that.
We work with a lot of great educators and there’s one of our educators who’s in a certificate program.
She is an environmental teacher in California and she always talks about how to teach kids about climate change. It’s not really about the facts of climate change, it’s having them become familiar and fall in love with the natural, the world outside of us, right, and realize that we are part of that, that we are an integral part of nature, and that is how you teach them about climate change, right? And it’s not going to be the scary statistics that just make them want to kind of curl up into a ball. It’s going to give them the fire to want to do something to protect their water, to protect their air, and that is something that we are all able to do if we ourselves are also healthy and have the capacity and feel regenerated by what we’re doing. So, yeah, I think that this idea is possible in any container that we’re in at this moment, and it’s necessary, actually, that public school teachers take this on in their own classrooms and administrators in public schools take this idea on in their own schools.
0:28:01 – Anna:
And I know I speak from a really different context I’m in higher education. But just to the point of lots of educators feeling burned out, feeling overwhelmed, I feel that too. But at the same time, some of these techniques and practices of finding care and finding flow, of reconnecting to nature, even if that’s just by closing your eyes and imagining your favorite place in the world and just taking that moment in a classroom, I think that that is regenerative to the educator as well and I think that’s an important thing that talking about regenerative education can do for us.
0:28:41 – Jess: Yes, and letting our students reenergize us, allowing that care from them to us to exist and to happen, because there’s not like a bizarre hierarchical thing happening in the classroom, but that it’s like we are all humans and I’m guiding you through this and you can help me and support me in recognizing what students are doing, when they’re funny, like that’s regenerative, and some of my students crack jokes Like, and I laugh instead of let’s get back on topic. That is happy for my soul, like I feel like I want to keep going, that is good stuff. And just taking a minute to just recognize that I think, kind of going back to what Sarah was talking about, we overcomplicate things quite a bit, right. So, yeah, just not to sound like cliche, like be in the moment, but of course that is so important for us to do and practice.
0:29:40 – Kyla: No, I think presence is absolutely necessary and I think what happens is like what comes to mind when you have this rigid structure and you’re sawing people off. You’re not present Because you’re constantly just thinking about, well, how do I just stay within these means, and it really stifles flow and care and ease in working with the students. I think what comes to mind is I’m curious about how have students responded or what are some things that you’ve seen in students that’s really surprised you with these methods and pedagogies that you’ve used.
0:30:14 – Jess: I think for me what was the biggest shocker was how, when I switched to working on these place-based projects like these larger Ed Shed projects, just the amount of intense devotion the students had for the projects and what they wanted to do.
And as soon as I told them that nothing was really off limits, that if they could do it, if they want to try to plant 1,000 trees, go for it. Or if you want to bring more foot traffic to this area because these businesses are suffering, like, how are you going to do that, go for it. And it’s like, and when we recognized in class that they were capable of making change, like actual change, not just getting a grade for something but really contributing, and what that meant to them as far as the amount of work that they put into their projects compared to when we read a novel together, you know that was the biggest shock to me and the biggest excuse me about my baby was the biggest. Just the happiest thing for me, to the biggest joy for me, was to see them in their education, in real education, doing what they feel like they can actually do.
0:31:43 – Anna: Yeah, that is so helpful. Sorry, Sarah, go ahead.
0:31:45 – Sarah: Oh no, I was just going to say. You know, so often when we work with teachers on this side of things too, what we hear back is like oh, it’s so simple and, like you said, I think even at the beginning, like it’s a mindset really, you know like, oh, it’s like helped me. I mean, I’ve gotten so much feedback from the podcast. They’re just like I’m not even a teacher and I like this podcast because it’s just helped me in my life. You know, I’m like, yeah, like that’s that’s the point is, because we’re not, we’re not like just educators or just you know, I mean it’s sort of like how do you bring in what we can learn about living in a way that feels like we’re relating to things and we’re connected to each other? How do we bring that into all aspects?
And then the podcast focuses on education. You know we focus on education because that’s what we spend most of our time doing Bye, it’s really about so many other things too. So, unlike in traditional sort of modern Western classrooms where you’re just teaching the English standards, it’s encouraging to me because we’re starting to open up to all these other things that are important. Sel is actually becoming a thing, and while I hope it doesn’t become another standardized sort of thing. It is a sign that we’re heading in a direction where these other things are being viewed as important as well, these mindsets more so.
0:33:08 – Anna: Thank you, and I wanted to ask you, sarah, about your work with leaders and the consultant work that you do, also, in relation to how do you find our leaders really amenable to this when they find out that it is this beautiful kind of easy thing, or what obstacles do you come across?
0:33:27 – Sarah: I think that usually it ends up sort of in the world of personal coaching is what I would say, almost more so where it’s like we’ll talk about policies and stuff, but then it turns into more of how we’re just being, and I think that that’s really people like that, because it feels a little bit easier to tackle than we’re overthrowing everything and we’re starting from scratch with all these new systems and structures. That said, I think that it goes there so often because it is hard to do the systemic changing work, and so we tend to move towards like OK, well, this is good for my own mindset and the way that I’m thinking about leading a school, and then we start to talk about Bell schedules or something like that, where it’s like OK, but I have, I need to get in X amount of reading hours today by law and math and I have all these teachers that are licensed for this, but I don’t have enough teachers that are licensed for this and so and so can’t teach this class because they are. You know, we’re hired for this position and it becomes a huge challenge to overcome, almost so challenging that it’s like there are parts, there are things that we just can’t do. There are things that just can’t happen because of the way that the laws are structured Now, when working with private schools that’s public schools. So if we’re working with private schools homeschool pods that all kind of goes out the door. The sky is the limit. What do you want to do? You want to meet at the zoo? You want to like I mean, those are sort of the things that are, it’s a little bit more free.
But when we talk about like so many the majority of students are public school educated we can’t like just ignore that. That’s why, just I keep coming back to public school, even though it would be so easy. You know, so many people that reach out to us are like homeschool parents or like school founders for like micro schools and that sort of thing, and that’s great and I’m happy to work with those people. And you know, I think it’s wonderful with some of the alternative ideas for education that are coming out and, you know, my hope is that those will eventually trickle into models that public schools can use as well. But sometimes it’s tricky. I think one thing that would be like so easy and Justin and I talk about this all the time is like if we could simply like just adopt certain things that do work really well, like I don’t know why public schools don’t just adopt like a Montessori model across the board. You know, I mean it’s like it’s tried and true. It’s so much closer to where we could go, like it would get us so much farther. They exist in regular buildings.
You know, like there are these things, that there are these things that can be done, but the overwhelm from leaders on just the amount of change to make some of those things happen, particularly when working with staff that is maybe not. They don’t want those changes to happen because they’ve been working on something for so long. So incremental change is important and working within your sphere of influence. We talk about the sphere of influence a lot Like what can I, what is like directly within my control, what is within my influence and what is outside of my control that I can’t let go of right now, and there’s a lot of hope in that.
But yeah, I mean I do feel like we have a responsibility to sort of shift things a little bit more quickly. That maybe isn’t so comfortable for everyone and it doesn’t feel like everybody necessarily wins right away, because it’s a little bit of a harder change, and I feel like there are leaders that are starting to think along those lines, but some of the laws are getting in the way For some public school administrators. One consideration that we’ve been hearing a lot of is having a separate pilot school, and so students, public school students, could opt into that separate pilot school. That, would you know, be gradeless. Be gradeless meaning you know more of a master, a mastery concept, instead of ABCDE, gpas. Gradeless, as far as you know, not first grade, second grade, third grade and just a host of different things, but using a pilot program to achieve those things that students would opt into.
0:38:16 – Anna: So that the education system sees this model and can see how effective and beautiful it is. I really hope that that happens. So, when we’re thinking about spheres of influence, which I think is so critical, because trying to change this massive system, it does have to happen kind of incrementally, and as much as I really believe that systems themselves need to change systems are made by people people can change and then hopefully change systems in the sphere of influence that you both have, you do this diversity of work that is so powerful, and so I’m wondering if you could just speak a little bit about some of the work that you do, especially if people are like yes, okay, I need to know more, I need to learn more from Sarah and Jess. What kind of things do you offer?
0:39:06 – Sarah: Well, do you just mean through, like the grounded teaching, or generative ed, like that sort of thing, or just everything?
0:39:13 – Anna: Everything that you do, because you do so much and it’s so diverse. When we think about diversity of practice, I think you both really embody that.
0:39:21 – Sarah: I’ll be honest, it’s the diversity that allowed us to like start thinking about this way too, because, yeah, I feel like we’re just in the right place, right time, to sort of catch some of these diverse things and we were just kind of open to it. In terms of like education, I won’t speak for Jess, but when it comes to I mean, I’ll let Jess, or speak for herself, when it comes to what we both do and grounded teaching, we are working with folks through the we Are Verbs Study Club, which is just kind of a group that any educator can join. It’s free. We do book clubs. We’re reading Rick Rubins, a creative, active being. We read a new book every season, and so that is a way to sort of anchor connection between all educators who are interested in thinking about how could I think in a way that is bringing more life into my classroom? It’s a book club, so it’s like it’s fun. You know it’s a way to connect that’s based on something. So you don’t know what you’re. You know you’re not like what am I getting when I come to this meeting? You know you’re just like, okay, we’re gonna talk about a book that I read and then through that you get to connect. So we talk about something interesting and we get to connect with each other On we Are Verbs Study Club.
We also have community skill shares that are place it or they’re. You know, community members from we Are Verbs are offering like training. So we had somebody talk about nonviolent communication. We had somebody talk about like energy medicine. We had somebody talk about like Justin, I did want to play space dyes that you can use like natural dyes. So that’s great. Like that’s a way where we can more broadly connect with folks. And it’s been kind of slow and we’re trying to get more folks in. And I, you know, justin, you’re like why is it so challenging to get teachers? And we’re like, oh yeah, teachers are so busy, that’s right, they might not want to come home and like hop on a Zoom call, which makes a lot of sense. So we’re trying to think about, you know, like, diversifying that in a way that people can just, you know, use it for what they need, and trying to send out, you know, collective information about what people really need in order to connect. So if you guys, as educators, have any ideas, that would be great too. So that’s one and encouraging people to join.
Another thing that we do is, you know, the regenerative ed podcast, and we actually have a series coming out that is just going to come out tomorrow, with the four elements, using those as a lens into thinking about our world. So the one on air and we mentioned a few things just in this podcast alone about, like laughter, creating space, those sorts of things that’s in what we’re talking about when it comes to air, and then we’ll do fire, earth, water, and then, yeah, we work with people, we do in-person workshops, we do, you know, some consulting stuff and you know those sorts of things are there. One of the things that we love to do is and we don’t do as much of it anymore, but is natural dye workshops with plants and how, thinking about art and thinking about creativity and thinking about where things come from and our connection to our materials. We can get all of that in some sort of like hands-on approach, and our approach to that is using, you know, plants for dyes, and so we’ve done that with a lot of students and even workshops for teachers, which has been really fun, and it’s just a way to get more concrete with, like, some entry points into connection, you know, instead of just talking about it or theorizing things. Let’s just like let’s dye some stuff and make some art and have some fun and connect to each other, and we love doing that.
And, yeah, we do some work with textile systems and that sort of thing and we’re looking at how do we create systems that are regenerative and place-based when it comes to our materials, the material we focus on as textiles. But that’s a really long answer to your question. It’s awesome, thanks, yeah. Yeah, jess, I don’t know if you wanted to. I guess I’ll just echo the interconnection among all these things, among working with plants and herbs, working with breath work, working with how do we use design for our land and stewardship for our land? And how does that connect with me teaching English in the classroom?
How does the textile system that everyone thinks of is very linear. How can we make that’s more circular and more bioregional? And that’s another thing, too that when I think of regenerative education, I think of bioregional education and place-based education as regenerative, and what looks regenerative in my container, in my bioregion, is going to look different. It’s going to be very different from what it looks like in Southern California or another country for that matter.
So, really thinking about and that’s a practice that we have with a lot of our other interests especially the textile system is practicing where are our assets and how do we look at what we do have and what we want to support and what we want to uplift?
And then how do I take that perspective into my school and think about what we do have and what I want to support and uplift and how that can kind of crowd out all of the negative stuff? And that’s a very simple entry point of becoming a more regenerative school or more regenerative educator and then also just bringing all of those things into my teaching. So, talking about those things with students, if I have a diverse experience and this is very simple but if I have diverse interests and that is going to kind of pique interests of my students as well and create conversations and questions and if I keep learning outside of my job, outside of just professional developments for education, but if I keep learning about different things that I’m curious about and wondering and asking questions about all of these different aspects of living in this beautiful world, how is that modeling to my students?
0:45:59 – Kyla: So, just talking about that and being open about what your own interests are, yeah, what comes to mind with all of this is especially with your work in textiles and materials, and I think it’s such an incredible way to approach your connection with the land, especially working with young people in elementary school, middle school, public school.
Fashion is such a huge thing, right, and with things like Sheen and other companies that are just like. I’ve done a lot of research and deep thinking about just these fast fashion models, right, and so just hearing about actually you can use the land to make your own in fashion and art. That is so connected and stuff. And I think what also comes to mind is I think you two are doing such a beautiful job of looking at this holistic approach to this interconnectedness, this macroscopic, microscopic from the systems but then to the breath work, to the individual, just like the how to get connected and such. And it reminds me of this hermeneutic critical thinking where you’re constantly zooming in and zooming out, and I think it’s such a beautiful thing to model to students and it’s necessary. I think, yes, yeah, great, I think. One last thing before we wrap up Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your perspectives about regenerative education, anything that we didn’t touch on that you think is important?
0:47:29 – Sarah: I feel like there are some principles that guide it and some people sort of, I think, use permaculture principles or think about it. It’s not that this is just a totally amorphous concept where we’re just simply thinking about more life, because what does that mean? And do I have the background knowledge to understand what ecosystems do Like? There’s a lot kind of there. I think we know most of it intuitively, but I would just say that if folks start slapping practices specifically onto regenerative or just things that feel maybe a little too rigid, that would just be something that I would be wary of. Just like going back to thinking about what it is that we’re trying to do here is we are trying to create more life and we are trying to think about regenerative. Ed is in lowercase r, lowercase e, and that it’s not something that it is something that we have to be a little bit wary of. Who is using that language and where it comes from, and just always getting clear with what it is that we’re talking about when we talk about those things. I think that’s just something that kind of bears repeating is that these are not necessarily new practices. Like you started off so beautifully talking about the land that you’re living on, and the indigenous practices and language and things that have come so far before us and before industrialization and white supremacy and colonization and all that stuff, and that there was a way, and there still is in some communities, ways of relating to learning that are not extractive and that are not harmful, and that that is something that we really need to honor and bring in those individuals and stuff as well to speak to that. So I love the work that you’re doing here and thinking about how it relates to indigenous communities as well. That’s definitely worth putting, I would say, front and center too.
And then I would just add that no step towards this is too small and that we should trust our bodies as well, and not just our heads. And am I doing it right? Am I thinking this through? Is this regenerative? Because it doesn’t matter, that’s the one word that we’re using to describe this.
But how does it make you feel? How does your body feel when you’re in these situations? Do you feel fed? Do you feel nourished? And what is one thing that you can do that you know where you can trust yourself, and you’ve experienced it before that you can do that makes you feel nourished. Is that standing at the door and greeting your kids, is that telling a joke at the beginning of class, is that allowing them the last five minutes to do their own thing so you can recoup before the bell rings and other students come in, what makes you feel good and feel whole and what creates those opportunities for you to be fed as an educator? And so I would say trust your body, listen to your body, and then nothing is too small in this practice. All our little, small things put together will make a big change.
0:51:06 – Anna: Thank you so much. It is so inspiring to speak with both of you, and one of the things that I’m hearing is that it’s not new, it’s quite ancient. I think it is the principles of the land, because we are part of that, and it can be really not necessarily easy, but simple. These practices that actually make us feel so connected, so much more alive, and I think that’s so important. So that’s one of the things I’m going to take away from our conversation today. Thank you both so much for this conversation. I appreciate it so much.
0:51:43 – Sarah: Thank you so much for having us. This is really fun and so good to connect with you too as well. It’s really been our pleasure. Thank you so much. Thank you.
0:52:32 – Anna: You can find our guests contact information and any resources they mentioned in the show notes for the episode. If you want to stay connected with us or learn more about our work, visit my website, annagriffith.ca. There you’ll find additional resources and ways to contact us directly. We would love to hear from you, so if you have any feedback, suggestions or topics you’d like us to explore in future episodes, don’t hesitate to reach out. The Creative Praxis podcast is produced by me, Anna Griffith, with support from Kyla Mitchell and Marquis. Sound editing is done by Brendon George, with music from Wattaboy on Pixabay.