General Overview Of Autumn: Opinion Essay

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As we are entering the autumn season and temperatures start to drop, people tend to spend more time indoors in the comfort of their homes. However, a walk in the park or nature is always a delight, as one is surrounded by the green, red, and yellow changes of the leave colours. This scenic stage of fascinating natural colours has always signalled for me a shift in a way of lifestyle and a dreadful back to school feeling. In my childhood, autumn was usually melancholic for me, representing the end of summer fun, but also building anticipation for the winter snow activities. Growing up I was able to enjoy and reflect upon the autumn season with more ease. As a child, I remember one of my questions was ‘Why do leaves change colour?’ and I assumed that they did so overnight when the world was asleep and thus, looked different over the following days. Walking in nature for this assignment now and thinking of myself as both a former elementary student and a future teacher, I wanted to explore this question through a new lens and perspective, delivering an answer I owe to myself for years.

During my exploration in nature, I collected leaves of various colours and created different patterns and shapes in the environment where they were found. I then documented the results photographically and hand-crafted a zine, juxtaposing the photographs with the leaves on each page. The significance of this art piece lays in the interaction of myself with nature, through the process of exploring various shapes using earth materials. As a recent graduate of art school, after contemplation and revisiting my art theory, I was inspired by land art and specifically the work of Andy Goldsworthy. Also known as Earth art, environmental art, and Earthworks, this movement emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, as artists reacted to the limiting space of galleries and museums, by expanding their art outside these traditional settings and using the earth itself as a medium. I found this movement to be in line with many of the discussions held in class about environmental education and sustainability. Land art centred around a rejection of the commercialization of art-making and harvested an enthusiasm with an emergent ecological awareness.(Stoksad & Cothren, 2013, p. 568)

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After researching the science behind leave transformations, I discovered that my inner ‘child scientist ‘ was not that far off from the right answer, assuming that they did so in secrecy over night. This change is a result of chemical processes that take place in the tree as the seasons change from summer to winter.(McGuire, 1998) During the spring and summer, the leaves serve as factories where the nutrients are produced for the tree’s growth. This food-making process is held in the leaf’s numerous cells, which contain chlorophyll and gives the leaf its green colour. This chemical absorbs energy from the sunlight and transforms carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch.(?) Along with the green pigment existing in the leaf, there are also yellow and orange ones; scientifically known as carotenes and xanthophyll, respectfully. Most of the year these colours are masked by great amounts of the green pigment. However, because of changes in the length of daylight and in temperature during the fall, the leaves stop their food-making process and the chlorophyll breaks down, disappearing the green colour and making the yellow to orange colours visible.(McQuire, 1998)

Initially, having established a relationship with nature on a personal level by exploring and playfully interacting with the leaves, the science representing my question occurred as a result of an organic inquiry. In the beginning of the course my teaching orientation was characterized by activity-driven and guided inquiry approaches. This testifies to my belief that if the question was posed by the teacher and the students had to discover why leaves change colour, without prior interaction with the concepts being addressed, then the project would be compulsory, and thus less authentic and meaningful. This project, was a reconfirmation of my initial suspicion, that students effectively learn when encouraged to develop their own questions and examine them through various activities accommodating different learning styles and involving various perspectives. As a future teacher, I have undoubtedly come to believe in the necessity of a student-based inquiry, engaging in real-world experience and motivated by the students own interests.

The role of wonder is important in any activity and could be defined as a primal drive, leading us humans to learn and grow. Rather, than being forced upon a student, wonder is a sparked and nurtured by time and experience. This natural inclination of children to be curious, is seen as an opportunity for educators to activate teaching. Although learning requires curiosity, the way the initial act of wonder may be addressed by the teacher truly determines the success of students learning. Schools so often focus on the outcome by highlighting the student’s ability to respond correctly to questions already determined for them. This approach promotes the answer as being more important than the question. McComas(2004)argues that there is no single way in which science and its methods can answer all questions.(p. 27), which highlights the importance of wonder not as a question or problem explicitly meant to be answered or solved, but rather functioning as the motivator of an ongoing process of discovery and further questioning. I believe the act of wonder is a propeller of human thought, achievement, and ultimately existence, therefore it should be encouraged throughout the students’ life and academic years.

One of the most important aspects affecting our lives, which we tend to unconsciously devalue is time. Ironically, this is the prerequisite for wondering and observation. As a fast paced society, we introduce our children from one structured activity to the next, hoping they will absorb as much information as possible for their own benefit and deprive them of valuable time to explore with their own leisure. In the chaos of everyday life, this assignment prompted me to realize just how important time is to foster wondering by connecting to ones own surroundings and inner emotional world. The journey of walking in nature, both relaxing and contemplative, questioning why leaves change colour, and the meditative quality of embedding myself in moment and place, taught me the importance of real-world encounters for learning. Resonating with Sobel’s (1999) call for the necessary act of children bonding with nature through experiential learning, in order to identify with it, find their place within it and comprehend its significance, I believe we must provide students with the opportunity of connecting with nature to further develop their interests in many areas, such as science and art. Children need real-world encounters and experiences, along with time to contemplate their surroundings, eventually mapping the connections and making meaning of the world.

Integrating art and science to explore the natural environment, led me to two questions: What is the art of science and what is the science of art? It seems to me that we can not answer one without considering the other. My understanding of the relationship between science, art, and observing the environment could be represented symbolically by the image of an equilateral triangle. These three different sources of knowledge can enhance our understanding of the world and facilitate our explorations by filling in the gaps where one stops and the other begins to feed our thought process. The socio-cultural current in the STSE education, emphasizes the idea that science is only one way of knowing and enhances student understanding of science as ‘interacting and existing collaterally with other forms of knowledge.’ (Pedretti & Nazir, 2011, p.617)This pedagogical approach characterized as holistic, reflexive, experiential, and affective, exposes students to various perspectives about physical phenomena resulting from various knowledge systems. As an art student myself I recognize the odd feeling many students may experience with science, leading them to be disinterested. As a teacher, I was mostly concerned with the engagement of students like me in subjects they did not feel comfortable with, yet I now recognize the benefits of art-making as a vehicle for science students to explore their questions, as well.

Having discussed the stereotypes regarding art and science as two separate worlds, I would like to further break this binary by examining the role of aesthetics. Girod, Rau and Schepige(2003) argue that ‘having an acute awareness of the beauty inherent in scientific ideas and scientific discovery necessarily draws us into its study’, as they attempt to decode the beauty of science and cultivate an appreciation for it. (p.575) Art tends to be perceived by the majority of the population as prioritizing emotion over reason, whereas science is more analytical, logical and unemotional. However, both are driven by wonder and as such must be characterized by passion. Wherever there is this sort of investment, both artistic and scientific, there must be emotion connected to it, as science is a highly creative endeavor, and a result of human interference, insuperable from imagination and creativity.(McComas, p.26 ) By emphasizing that scientists, similarly to artists are people with human weaknesses, strengths, ambitions, and feelings, science becomes humanized and contextualized, and thus more appealing to a variety of students, evoking their emotions and creativity.(Pedretti & Nazir, 2011, p.610) Art and science are not inconsistent activities in the world and I believe in a pedagogy that opposed to the traditional scientific approach of asking students to step back and be critical observers of their surroundings, invites them to bring forward their creativity, passions, and emotions.(Girod, Rau&Schepige,2003 ,p.585)

The benefit of an educational approach integrating art and science as tools for investigating the natural environment, holds the potential to inspire a greater population of students to venture out of their comfort zones and expand their thinking process. This complementary relationship between the two will allow students to better inform their practices and communicate with each other as a collective, rather than isolated communities of like-minded individuals. Inspired by the reading ‘Promoting science and technology in primary education’, I support the idea that educators should create a school culture that will evolve from traditional cellular curricula to fully integrated.(Gresnigta et al. p.51) The benefits of cross-disciplinary approaches to education are aligned with the purposes of a holistic education in nurturing healthy persons who can learn whatever they need to know in any new context. Exposing children to different subjects, challenging them to see the world through new perspectives and teaching them how to make connections between their knowledge gained in various fields, will equip them with the skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation.

Engaging with nature and experiencing it directly through play, activated my emotions of enjoyment and feelings of happiness, but also left me perplexed as to why the leaves change and what this signifies about myself as being a part of this ever changing world. These emotions triggered my curiosity and I researched the science behind it to discover the reasons of this natural cycle. The various levels of this project and further reflection, all equally informed my understanding of teaching as part of a larger educational purpose to inspire students to use their maximum potential in becoming whole healthy individuals. Interacting with nature, followed by the aesthetic quality of creating art and accompanied by the various emotions it produced, finally inspiring me to discover the scientific explanation are all steps that vouch to the process of knowing as involving the whole conscious self, feelings, emotions, memory, affects, and an epistemologically curious mind. (Freire, 2005, p.165)


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