The idea behind English in Nature:
The solution I propose:
let’s take both language learning and nature & sustainability education to a new level. The time has come.
I’m here to provide you with high quality resources designed to empower you to make nature-based English and experiential sustainability education more accessible to more people.
English in Nature, the concept, has grown organically over many years and been inspired by some of the best nature and language educators in the world. I present here my version of an emerging concept of integrating English language learning with experiential nature & sustainability education.
To all eco-passionate educators:
whether you’re teaching English or Nature, I invite you to learn to teach English in Nature as an integrated, experiential, outdoor learning program…
…become that one in a million, and not just one of millions.
I welcome you!
Just the Facts
Who am I?
Working for 20 years as an educator & advocate, I’ve been engaged in environmental eductation (EE) and English language teaching (ELT) through numerous cooperations with wildlife conservation organizatons, summer camps, government agenices, schools, museums and other educational institutions. Teaching English in Nature is my passion and my life’s work.
In practice, I’m a specialist in both nature-, environmental- and English-language education. In the past, I worked as biologist (B.Sc.) in various academic and industry research labs, and I also studied linguistics, language development and the psychology of learning parallel to biological sciences.
Other things I enjoy include writing, travel, hiking, exploring, gardening, cooking, sports and spending time with my kids. I speak and write in my native language English and, after many years of hard work, also fluently in German.
I’m a native-born US-American expat living indefinitely in Germany, currently in Nidda (Hessen), am married and the proud mother of 3 wonderful children.
“Insatiatably curious” would be the two words that would describe me best. The next two would be “incurably optimistic,” followed by “irrespressibly joyful about being alive.” Born to parents dealing with some serious financial and health struggles, I didn’t grow up with heaps of store-bought toys or electronic devices, nor did I have much direct educational guidance from my parents or teachers. I watched how people did things, and many things I learned simply by doing.
I grew up exploring the outdoors, where you might say I was educated “organically”.
The story of English in Nature began the moment I realized how unusual my childhood experience had become.
After working a few years as an educator, I’d realized that my own childhood years of mostly unstructured outdoor activities and play were my most valuable investment in serious learning.
The countless hours I’d spent outdoors as a child, season to season—watching trees, flowers and grasses grow, coastal tides ebbing and flowing, hanging out with the animals, from megafauna to microscopic, building shelters with scrap wood and discarded nails, in winter with ice and snow, learning to smell the wind and the coming weather, meeting new landscapes and seeing the changing array of inhabitants reflect the geology below and the climate above—all counted for a lot more than I had previously realized.
What I didn’t realize back then was how few children are introduced to their natural world or given a chance to discover it and learn how amazing, how beautiful and how infinitely complex and exciting our natural world is.
Insatiably curious as I was, I wanted to understand how people tick, from babies to adults. Languages, cultures and religions have always fascinated me… I took to heart expert linguist Noam Chomsky’s insistence that we are hard-wired to acquire language.
The ultimate purpose of English in Nature, since the beginning, has been to help create more places like the camps that I have had the honor to be part of, and to emulate that magical experience for as many more people as possible, where they, too, can experience connection, grow as a person, build their skills and find their path.
It feels incredibly empowering to have acquired these skills, tools and knowledge, and to know how to apply them.
And this is precisely what I can’t wait to share with you!
From a young age, I learned to see “Mother Nature” as our greatest, wisest teacher, well before I ever realized that few other “modern” people were as lucky…
In 2007, I started my own language school. We offered rather unconventional English courses, but our students loved them. I organized play groups for small children, afternoon programs for school children and holiday camps for children and teens. The camps were the cornerstone–outdoor, experiential learning is what kids and their parents wanted most.
Story-telling, games, projects, experiments, wildlife interactions, crafts, life skills and outdoor adventure were all part of the package.
I firmly believe that language learning is a natural phenomenon that happens best in an environment that lets it happen naturally.
So I organize activities that inspire interactive engagement with real things in context, between participants, and in-context use of language for the purpose of learning SOMETHING ELSE besides just the language.
There are no course books for this.
My dissatisfaction with the fairly rigid conventions of standard English language teaching, along with my heartfelt wish to go back to teaching nature, gave me strong motivation to find opportunities to do things differently.
To learn a language truly organically, the way that we do so naturally. The content, methods and target language are all fully integrated and matched to the age and cognitive level of the learners. Is this seeking to achieve the impossible? I don’t think so.
Achieving a truly effective, organic, naturally integrated, experiential learning environment merely…
TEACHING WHAT OUR LEARNERS NEED TO KNOW IN A WAY THAT MAKES THEM WANT TO LEARN!
Skill Building Years
How I Got Into Environmental Education – “The One Job Where You Get Paid Less Than an Artist”
I’ll never forget the moment a friend of a friend confronted me with it. At a gallery opening in Boston attended mostly by artists and art buyers I was asked by an attending artist what I do for a living. “Environmental Education” I answered proudly.
“Oh, congratulations! You have the one job that pays less than being an artist!“
It wasn’t meant as an insult, rather as one man’s commentary on the sad, wide-spread lack of support for something that our global society desperately needs, above all our children.
Indeed, nature and environmental educators deserve to make a decent income. We tend to be idealists who don’t think much of money. Yet, earning money is what enables us to create and run our programs.
English in Nature has been developed with this exact problem in mind – TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION.
By integrating language with nature and environmental education, more value is added, no matter how you look at it.
As somone who is equipped to teach both nature and English together, in a truly integrated program,
…you will indeed be one in a million.
Stories have a power of their own. Often we have to experience things for ourselves before we can understand, but stories do help.
A large part of seeing and respecting the beauty, power and wisdom of nature can be learned through stories. From a young age, I learned to see “Mother Nature” as our greatest, wisest teacher, well before I ever realized that few other “modern” people were as lucky…
Perhaps it was out of a sense of duty to this natural world, that has taught and given me so much that my mission eventually became finding ways to give as many other people as possble similar chances to experience and learn from Nature.
Once it became clear to me that we were going to be staying in Germany for a while, I started my own language school, in 2007. Experiential learning was a key feature of my courses from the start.
The fruits of all these years of preparation are only now beginning to ripen.
Weaving it together:
NATURE… THEN ENGLISH… THEN BACK TO NATURE
Weaving together your skills may be easier than you think.
Your language immersion experiences, your formal education, plus any practical skills or self-study you’ve undertaken, combined with the pedagogical knowledge and skills you will acquire and accumluate all allow you to weave together:
of content and language
for all age and proficiency levels.
There are indeed many ways to learn and there are many different learning styles, but, to learn a language truly organically, the way we naturally learn…
…indeed requires us to achieve a truly effective, organic learning environment.
This emerging methodology now has a name: CLIL
(FULL STORY ON CLIL HERE)
Began officially in 2014, and is still in the making.
Join me and become part of it!
More stories to come!