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Becoming an Ecologiser

Originally appears in the Winter 2017 issue

I WAS SEVEN, an only child of older parents, walking home from Sunday school. I touched the leaves on the hedges, stared up at puffy white clouds sailing in a blue sky, stopped to smell the occasional garden flower I passed and thought about where I had just been. Out in the fresh air, a light wind played with the leaves, their shadows dappled the path, entrancing. By comparison, Sunday school seemed an oddly imposed superstructure, nothing to do with the nature I was now experiencing.

As I look back, I see this memory as a personal epiphany. The moment I saw two distinct worldviews side by side and chose to commit my heart and soul to nature. It was also at the time in my life when the left brain logical, analytical, verbalised reasoning leadership was set to take over the right brain holistic all-embracing side that had ruled my life so far. In my case, the left brain’s take-over bid got diverted by an all-embracing mind/body certainty that engulfed me that afternoon. This epiphany has served me well and faithfully ever since. Then and there I made a secret pact with nature, swore an allegiance with a fealty and commitment great as any knight of old. It also seeded a dual way of seeing life, for which I didn’t yet have the words. Unsurprisingly, I never shared this with anyone, sensing it would elicit the two responses I most dreaded: ridicule or terrible trouble.

When your students experience moments like this, it will seed in them the identity of being an ecologiser. An identity found by examining and inhabiting the anthropocentric space between the identity our culture gives us and the earthcentric status the Earth gives us – as part of an ecosystem. This becomes the background for future scenarios students will face as adults. In offering our students the opportunity to engage with, play-act the inherent tensions, dilemmas and conflicts they will meet, we give them a safe space to develop life skills of resilience, fortitude and courage. The Terrible Environmental Trouble story-making group exercise detailed later in this article is an example of how, by using the drama and excitement inherent in story-making, we can empower young people for the future they will face.

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Ann Palmer specialises in teaching Creative Writing across the age-range in the U.K, and lives in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. She served on the committee of the Swanwick Writers Summer School and was Literary Advisor to West Midlands Arts Council. She has worked as a supply teacher and as a Writer-in-Schools. She is author of Writing and Imagery: How to deepen creativity and improve your writing. Learn more at


1. Richard Louv – Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2005 ISBN -13 978-1565123915

2. Daniel Pink – A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, Riverhead Books, New York. ISBN-13 978-1-905736-54-6.

3. Sir Ken Robinson – Out Of Our Minds, Capstone Publishing Limited. ISBN 13 978-1-84112-125-3