At Inhabitots, we love learning about and exploring all the varied schools of education, instruction and learning. We know you do too! Integral education was a new concept for most of us and we were intrigued by its holistic and caring approach to the needs of each individual child. We recently caught up with writer/educator/Integral spokesperson Willow Dea, author of Igniting Brilliance: Integral Education for the 21st Century to learn more about Integral Education and how it can transform your child's educational experience at school and at home. Read on for more information on this inspiring educational model.
Q: Can you give a general definition of integral education and how a typical, traditional lesson could incorporate the integral approach?
A: “An integral approach to education is one where all perspectives are acknowledged, organized and drawn upon in a manner that has integrity with the educational situation.
An integral approach means taking the body, mind and spirit of each learner into an active, engaged, open ended inquiry of the content, in such contexts as self, culture and nature. As well, when a learner is offered a wider view of any topic, the tendency is to learn more deeply. For example, if you were to take the topic of coffee in a high school botany class, you might examine the cultural ritual of drinking coffee, along with the biochemical response in the body, as well as the supply and demand chain of the coffee industry and the laws governing trade related to coffee.
Any lesson being offered, illustrating the power of engaging the hearts and minds of students at all ages [could incorporate the integral approach]. The possibilities are endless, as are the expressions of our contributors. Our wish is that you find your unique expression in your learning environment.”
Q: How do you think that incorporating an integral approach to education could impact the current state of education in this country, particularly public education?
A: “Utilizing the full measure of an integral approach would transform the current state of education in this country. Ultimately, education is an ongoing discourse, evolving in its relationship to the current state of the geopolitical state of the world, as well as the economic realities of globalization. [With integral educators], we see that students have the opportunity to learn at a higher level, both about themselves as humans, as citizens, and in the larger sphere of the world around them – be that about art, performance, science and technology, or other cultural perspectives.
When the body and the emotional experience of our students are engaged in learning, we see that these kids’ experience learning from a more whole disposition. They tend to be more calm and able to engage for longer, and with greater attention to the big picture. The kids themselves report falling in love with learning, and carry out rich conversations with their teachers and their peers.”
Q: Igniting Brilliance mentions the idea of “divine regard,” or the ability to hold everyday things as sacred. Do you think this perspective makes practitioners of integral education especially able to connect to environmental issues? How?
A: “Yes, I believe that educators who are able to consider the planet and sustainable practices in their sphere of practice are better able to regard the ordinary elements of life on planet earth as sacred, or important to protect. When people develop this level of care for the life around them, it’s difficult to forget. Modeling these behaviors and beliefs to students offers them the natural opportunity to embrace those beliefs, and to share those activities with their families at home.”
Q: What are some ways in which a parent could use the integral approach of education at home to discuss environmental issues?
A: “Parents are very likely engaging their kids in ‘integral’ learning, just by means of the arrangement of their homes — having a compost bin and a system for recycling, for example. Facilitating conversations about healthy sustainable practices over dinner or after school can be woven into the very culture of family life. I’m sure there are many parents modeling bike-riding, using public transportation, and in other ways diminishing their family’s carbon footprint each day.
Enlivening learning by mixing up the methods – activities, conversations, experiments, long term processes, or re-arranging physical spaces to learn more about routine behaviors (such as watching less tv) can be a few ways to play with this. As well, an integral parent puts the relationship to their children first, asking for feedback, and really paying attention to communication. Additionally, a relationship to life long learning, and personal growth tends to set parents up for asking better questions about their parenting, as they’re attending to their own evolution. This is essential: staying curious and open. Keeping it light. Doing it anyway, even when it’s messy.”
Lead image © flickr user Yellow Sky Photography