Season 3, Episode 19:
A Story of Education and Knowledge
Guest: Rowan Salim
Hosted by: Marina Robb
Rowan Salim is a geographer, facilitator, community gardener and storyteller who loves playing, making things, meeting people, and engaging in deep, slow learning.
She is one of the founders of Free We Grow, a self-directed, nature based and sociocratic children’s learning community in Lewisham, and Putney Community Gardens, a network of green and wild growing, playing and learning spaces on the Ashburton Estate in Wandsworth.
I enjoyed how this conversation embraced ancestry, how we both value the hospitality and generosity of other cultures.
We begin to unpack the idea of progress in relation to the Story of Education, we touch on a consent-based, self-directed socio-cratic system of education.
If we can learn outside boxes where children can grow up knowing the local places and spaces, then it may be possible to develop values that align to what we can sustain, and create more livelihoods that are based on relationships.
In this episode, We dive into:
- How our lineages and different places continue to inform us.
- Celebrating hospitality and generosity from other lands.
- Considering international development and what ‘progress looks like’ within ‘The story of education.’
- An introduction to 'Socio-Cratic Education' – where children are accepted, which is not authoritarian or coercive.
- Equating education with schooling - is this indisputable?
- How we value certain knowledge over others and reduce the diversity of ways of knowing.
- The growing network of alternatives in the UK and abroad.
- The role of the adult as facilitators to be ‘guardians of flow’ and be ‘play allies.’
Music by Geoff Robb: www.geoffrobb.com
This episode was recorded in May 2023.
Rowan is a geographer, facilitator, community gardener and storyteller who loves playing, making things, meeting people, and engaging in deep, slow learning.
She is one of the founders of Free We Grow, a self-directed, nature based and sociocratic children’s learning community in Lewisham, and Putney Community Gardens, a network of green and wild growing, playing and learning spaces on the Ashburton Estate in Wandsworth.
Rowan is a conscientious walk-out from the international development world and mass education institutions and is engaged in a quest to find ways of healing and growing healthy, connected and joyful childhoods, kinships and landscapes. Rowan experiments and collaborates in enabling the emergence of grassroots learning spaces, journeys and communities.
In 2024 Rowan is taking time out to explore new ideas and deep dive into old ones and is open for collaborations.
Feel free to get in touch at [email protected]
Free We Grow: https://freewegrow.co.uk/
Putney Community Gardens: https://www.instagram.com/putneycommunitygardens/?hl=en
A little peek into the alternative world of education possibilities:
Shikshantar (India): https://www.shikshantar.org/
Ecoversities Alliance (Global): https://ecoversities.org/
The Freedom to Learn Network (UK):https://www.freedomtolearn.uk/
Some inspirational people, ideas and projects referenced in the podcast:
Bayo Akomolafe: https://www.bayoakomolafe.net/
Sophie Christophy: https://sophiechristophy.com/
The New School: https://www.thenewschool.org.uk/
Warwick. A., and Warwick. P., (2015) ‘Towards a pedagogy of love: sustainability education in the early years’ ESD edition of Early Education: journal of the British Association of Early Childhood Education. No 76
Book: Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape, by Jay Griffiths
Schooling the World - The White Man’s Last Burden: https://carolblack.org/schooling-the-world
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(transcribed by AI so there maybe some small errors!)
Marina Robb: Hello, and welcome to the wild minds podcast for people interested in health, nature based therapy and learning. We explore cutting edge approaches that help us improve our relationship with ourselves, others and the natural world. My name is Marina Rob, I'm an author, entrepreneur, Forest School outdoor learning and nature bass trainer and consultant, and pioneer in developing green programs for the health service in the UK.
You're listening to Episode 19, a story of education and knowledge. For this episode, my guest today is Rowan Salim, who is a geographer, facilitator, community gardener and storyteller, who loves to play, make things, meet people, and engage in deep, slow learning. I enjoyed how this conversation embraced our ancestry, how we both value the hospitality and generosity of other cultures. And we begin to unpack the idea of progress in relation to the story of education, we touch on a consent based self directed socio-cratic system of education.
If we can learn outside boxes, where children can grow up knowing the local places and spaces, then it just may be possible to develop values that align to what we can sustain, and create more livelihoods that are based on relationships. We were just talking before we went live a little bit about our ancestry, which I hope we're going to get into in a minute.
So I'm just going to start with gratitude to my, my family, my different families, my Italian background, and my English Welsh background, and just to give gratitude for the things that they carried in their lineage and passed down to me things that sometimes I'm not even aware of, but I'm grateful for their lives. And I'm grateful for the little quirky things that show up in my life now that clearly have come from them. So that's my gratitude to those ancestors behind me. Thank you. Over to you
Rowan Salim: Ah thank you, Marina. It's funny before you said your gratitude, I and you invited me to give mine I knew exactly what I wanted to share it, I just felt it really deep inside me. And that is that was. So I'm involved in a community garden in Putney. And yesterday, we have, I tend to hang out, there's not really a gardening session, I'm just there and people can show up. And it's, it's always the kids who show up. And there are these two kids, they're Albanian, they're about three and five. And I'm just grateful for their, the depth of their curiosity of their joy of their absolutely uninhibited. Like desire to be there to connect to play their patients.
They're just just love for being outside. And, and I'd like to leave that to to our ancestry because I think going back generations and generations, well, forever, children always have that. So I'm also grateful to that for my parents, for my grandparents, for their grandparents, and going through that, that light that sets in all of our childhoods. We're grateful for that.
Marina Robb: Thank you. Yeah, I'm feeling that too. It is something special to remember our ancestors And our parents and our grandparents. There's something that really brings people together when we when we bring that into the conversation, I think and yeah I'd really value hearing a little bit about your lineage, your ancestry and what brings you here right now doing things like community gardens.
And I know we're going to talk about socio-cratic education, which I'd love to unpack with you in a little bit. But what is it about your, your story, your history, the history that goes back before maybe even you're alive, that you may or may not know, that, that you think are some of the strands that have brought you here? Today, and that could be about your parents or grandparents. I'd love you to share some of that, if any of it shows up now.
Rowan Salim: Thank you. So yeah, I come from a very mixed and jumbled and somewhat nomadic background. My parents are, so my mom is Iraqi. She's her father comes from the south of Iraq, near the marshes. And he and he has he has an interesting story, because he kind of went through the education system as a young boy, and did very well. Well, well in what the education system deems successful and worked his way up. And, and ended up marrying my grandmother who's from, from Baghdad actually near closer to the Syrian border between Baghdad and the Syrian border. And then they then moved with the family all over the world. So they lived in Kuwait. They lived in Libya, they lived in Morocco. My family has a long history in Morocco, Morocco, in the 50s. And then in the 70s. And in the 90s. So sorry, in the 80s. And and my mom is still has a connection to Morocco. So we were an Iraqi family. But in terms of our experience of the land, it's connected to various places all over the Arab world, in North Africa, and in the Gulf, and also in the Levant and Lebanon.
My father's family, my father's father's Iraqi, and he's from the from, from Baghdad, originally from Mosul. So it's interesting for us because we're from different places in Iraq. And he, he's, he's an artist, so his family, my father's family, he comes from a lineage of artists. So within the arts, there has always been an exploration of identity, of cultural heritage and of connection to land. So that has flowed through my father's artwork and the kind of narrative that I grew up with at home. And my father's mother is German Austrian, who also comes from a family of artists. But interestingly, my grandparents met, my dad's father was in Germany, went to the festival to the carnival to in Cologne. And met my grandmother, and they fell in love. They dance, they fell in love. And she moved to Iraq in the early 50s. About in her early 20s.
So my dad then was born in Sudan, moved to China, lived in Yugoslavia lived in Libya. So my connection to land is interesting, because both of both families are very rooted in place. Both have a connection to Iraq, but all of them and both of them have a knowing of different lands, and unknowing of place. So then, so then, when I grew up, we also were nomadic. So I was born in England, born and sorry, moved to move to Morocco. So my childhood was in Morocco for 10 years, and then in Yemen. And then came back here back from at least so. But because I think partly because of the way both my parents are, everywhere that we went, we we travelled a lot. So we went on picnics, we went on trips, we do it that we're not very camping family. So I got into camping later on in my life, but but we're definitely a family that got to know we got to know the land we were in. So that's very much shaped the shape to me and the decisions I've taken and what I've chosen to do in my life. Hmm.
Marina Robb: Got it feels extraordinary because a lot of the places you've mentioned feel quite exotic to me exotic as in. I know I've heard of them. You know, I've heard of the names but I've never been on. I think probably I don't even know if all of those places or some of those places but I but my dad did work in Saudi Arabia. And so I have a kind of Arabic flavor and I travelled as an 18 year old in Egypt and Sudan. And so and they were it was really formative the language that was used the kind of Salaam Alaikum, you know, Peace be with you and the way people greeted each other. And in fact, I, you know, to thinking about that I remember the way people would spend almost five minutes greeting each other in Sudan. I was 18. And I was blonde.
Yeah. And people treated me so so well. So actually, you're bringing back memories that I hadn't even thought we would think about. So there's something in incredible when you just talk about all these countries and these lands and in your own heritage, and so how is it with all that mix? And I know, we can only touch on it now? How do you think that has informed? Why you're interested in education and the choices you've made in education? Because I know, one of the things that really inspires me to talk to you is about this idea of socio-cratic. Education? And actually, I don't really know what that means. Yeah, so first, before, before we go into that, how have these images of these different places and meeting different people in these bloodline that you have? How is the how has that informed what you're doing now?
Rowan Salim: Firstly, I want to just pick up and echo what you said about hospitality and generosity. And I think, if anything, that is a theme that has run through all of the places that I've been fortunate enough to live in, and it's really, you know, you read about kind of Arab hospitality and Arab generosity, and I've kind of read about and heard about, it's almost like an mythical thing. But you feel it, because it's, embedded in the land, it's embedded in the culture, it's embedded in our kind of equation for survival, right?
If you, I was living in the north of Yemen, I was doing some work with UNICEF, on child trafficking between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. And these are really remote mountains in Yemen. Very, very rugged. Very well, I'd say very arid, but that's also a seasonal thing. But quite a harsh climates, and really tribal as well. And just so and just in the midst of that, you feel absolutely safe. You feel safe, because people look out for each other. And because you've got codes, by which you are connected to each other. So these are all sorts of things like you, you're a friend for your if you live with if you're your there's like mountain ranges, and you take care of everyone up to seven mountain ranges away.
So if someone comes in to visit you don't question it, you're welcome them. It's kind of like that story of three cups of tea, you have the first cup of tea, and then you have a second cup of tea, then you have a third cup of tea. And then you say, like, and then you kind of get into why you might be visiting.
So yeah, they it's really shaped, it's that kind of trust in each other, and in the land has really shaped my experience of living in the Middle East. But one of the things that happened to me and working in different places and living in different places is I felt torn. I felt torn between this kind of sense that the whole world is my home and I can be anywhere I wanted to.
And this kind of what's the word the kind of I want to say fleet footed, but I'm not sure if that's a word, like that light hearted sense that you can jump away around from place to place. And after about 10 years of working in different countries. All around Swan that was just south west Asia and North Africa. I realized that there was a lot I felt that there was something missing in my relationship to place. And that was the caring longevity and the rootedness. So it's kind of like you know how plants have different types of roots. So some roots go really deep like tap roots to get tap water. And some of them in some plants have researched are really shallow but spread quite broadly and wait for the rains to come and some plants have both. So my roots were really shallow and I knew lots of places, but I kind of knew them somewhat superficially, I love them, and there was a relational elements.
But I felt that in this day and age, too many of us have shallow roots. Because we, you know, people, you know, you see that today with the kind of nomadic working culture we can go anywhere you want to, if things don't work, right, that's fine, you can go somewhere else. But actually, I felt that what was an even pleat, people who are based in place, are disconnected from the land. So they can, they're there, whether through urbanization or other processes have disconnected from the land. And I felt that actually in order to move towards a more sustainable future and to move towards it, and a more integrated land carrying system, what I needed to do was to get to know aligned intimately. That's why I'm Putney. It's a big choice to come here. But that's what I'm putting here. That's partly why I'm involved in the community garden and, and other projects here.
Marina Robb: So in a way, you're kind of saying, on the one hand, your life has been informed by many places, many lands many stories. But at the same time, you've recognized that you wanted to have something deeper, more rooted more attached. And at the same time, I guess I'm hearing that all the other stuff, all that those different experiences, different places are still informing you. And I wonder about how that is still informing you. So let's go there a little bit. So you're in London. Yep. You're in a place called Putney. Yeah. And I know that you've been working in a while you've been running is it called free we grow? Which is, yeah, is that right? And that's not is that in Putney? That's not in Putney?
Rowan Salim: No. It's in Lewisham.
Marina Robb: It's Lewisham. So you're involved in to? Well, probably many more knowing you. Right? But at least two projects or organizations? Yeah. And you're saying that you wanted to do this? Because you wanted to stay in one place and be rooted? Yeah. So tell us about those bullets? Or tell us about those organizations? Because I'm assuming you're not on your own. You're part of a community as well. So yeah. Tell us a little bit about this organization. And again, this socio-cratic method or way of working in this in this system,
Rowan Salim: I think I might start a little bit. It's a bit story of how I got to doing that. So working, working overseas. So my mum works in international developments, which is why we travelled as a family. And I was embedded in that for the first kind of 2030 years of my life. And international developments is an interesting world. Because it's essentially a massive industry that is trying to support countries to develop,
Marina Robb: develop interesting word already.
Rowan Salim: It's a very interesting word, and it's an invented word. And it's a story about what progress looks like. Part of that story. And one of the things I found in the beginning of my career, is that there are certain ingredients to that story. And one of the fundamental ingredients has been the story of education. This idea that's education is a REIT, which, in some senses I agree with, but the equating of education with schooling so that there's this kind of fundamental belief that has spread throughout the world that you know, you nobody ever says children shouldn't go to school. It's really taken as kind of indisputable that children have the right to go to school.
And what I found traveling around the world and I was really lucky to spend the very beginning so when I was a kid in Yemen, we went on a trip to Socotra island with my school, and I fell in love with it. And one of the first places I went to after finishing university. So worked on Socotra, which is a community which is essentially an indigenous community, they speak their own language with a very, very integrated, very holistic, dating back 1000s of years relationship with the more than human world. And even the most remote places, this idea of schooling comes along. And what happens when school comes along to any place around the world is that you end up defining different forms of knowledge. So what happens is, you get the story arrives. And suddenly, in order to be educated, which is this fundamental human right, you have to go to school. And what happens when you go to school is that you get the hierarchy of knowledge, so and you lose other sources of knowledge. So your, the knowledge that you that is valued are things like English, math, science, and also certain forms of discipline.
But what happens along with that is a disconnect from the natural world. So in order to be educated, or schooled, you're taken away from the natural world, into a box. And if you're lucky, you're taught about the natural world, but more often than not, the essentials are Maths and English. And, and maybe science, but it's bereft of experience, and it's bereft of feeling. What happens is that the learning becomes about your own success and your own grades. And what I experienced over and over again, is this separation, that between people's identities and their culture, their heritage, and incredibly diverse forms of learning and being towards a much more narrow definition of what education looks like.
So there's something about the story of school, which, while I became interested in, and for the first kind of, between my, like, in my 20s, and early 30s, I was still very much a proponent of schooling, because it was a story that I believed in a story that I thought did me well. And because development seemed like a good thing. And it's only kind of taking a step back and looking at the where development has gotten to us in terms of everything from Well, lots of things have been fantastic as well. It's not all about story, there's amazing advances in technology and health and all sorts of things, but there's also an outright kind of drive towards environmental destruction. So and, social isolation and, disparities and in wellbeing across the world. So, I then decided to look for alternatives. I then decided to go to I'm sorry, that was a long background. Sorry,
Marina Robb: no, that's a perfect, but I don't think it's background it makes, it's actually really insightful to have a bigger perspective. Because actually, as you go into the small, which we might get to, it's remembering it's coming from a context, a wider context that's driving progress, this type of progress around the world. And I appreciate just pausing, you know, for a moment, and to refer just to hold that there are these, these forces that are happening around us that we're often unaware of that take place in all sorts of fields, and industries that they're a part of that sometimes this story, so, so. So, thank you now, that's great. Keep going. I'm listening, but I was just,
Rowan Salim: I'm just going to say that it's the way I think about it is a little bit like, like an ecosystem. So in any ecosystem. What makes an ecosystem resilience is diversity is if you have an ecosystem where it's just one monoculture, then or even, you know, a few cultures. If you have a crisis, it's doesn't have as much diversity within it in order to be able to overcome the crisis. And it feels to me like the same thing is happening with education, and with knowledge with our different ways of knowing our different forms of knowing our different embodied senses of knowing what schooling does It feels to me is that's it, it's ensures that everybody, it's trying to make sure everybody has the same basic knowledge as a human right.
But by doing that, and the manner in which it does that, which tends to be quite authoritative, quite top down quite competitive, quite isolationist, you know, an individual versus successes individual, it's not group success, there are lots of things to say about some of the issues with the schooling system is that it's reducing the diversity of our ways of knowing. And just like, if you have a it's just like in an ecosystem, if you reduce the ways of being if you reduce the biodiversity within it, then it becomes fragile. So what I'm what I'm interested in, is trying to find ways of tapping into the deep ways of knowing that we have, some of them are embodied, passed down through our ancestors, you know, the look in those children's eyes and the forest garden, they've got those ways of knowing until they get called out of it, they've got that depth of love and curiosity and engagement.
So some of it is embodied ways of knowing, and some of it is Ways of Knowing which continue to exist in cultures around the world, whether it's indigenous communities, or communities that are looking at doing things differently. communities that are connected to the land, and trying to make space for them. And, and trying to trying to support a shift in the system so that their education, their learning is not erased, for the sake of schooling.
Marina Robb: Yeah, that makes me feel a sadness, because for a moment, I'm I can feel loss. I can feel it myself. What we could be losing what we are losing. So yeah, those words bring that to me. And then alongside that I have this kind of rising energy in me thinking, Oh, sometimes we can feel I can feel angry about the system, let's say and the educational system, but at the same time, the way we've been speaking about it already today feels like, we're in this story. Most of the time, we don't even know we're in this story, we don't even know we're in this kind of, like, progression story. And I sometimes feel, you know, when we challenge when we start to challenge these ideas, it feels like we're being anti something and therefore provocative.
And yeah, like, trying to cause a problem, you know, rather than being the kind of in a way, gentle that we're in this story. And here we are right now, beginning to unravel some of these stories, some of them. There are other stories here. There are other stories of these indigenous communities. There are other stories of all these different cultures that are the stories of different ways of knowing. And yeah, let's not lose them, because they are there. They're part of this tapestry. Yeah. This tapestry, and they hold. It's like, prevent preservation as, as the horticultural societies, do they preserve seeds, don't they? Because we need to keep them but I don't even like the idea of preserving them.
Because like, we're going to preserve them for the Holocaust or something, you know, and then we'll bring them out, you know, it's like, no, we don't want to wait, you know, we want to be bringing them in. So. Ah, so with that, it feels what so what are you doing in London? Because I kind of think a lot of what I do, whilst it can be in urban places, I've been to China and doing all kinds of different things in urban spaces. It is, you know, most of the population of the world are now in urban spaces. So I'd love to hear both the context of what you're doing, where you're doing it, and what are you doing, and we still haven't got to what is socio-cratic? Education? You can we could be here for hours, and we can't be you're just gonna have to make more space later. So tell me about how some of these threads come together on in a rooted way in a project that you're running. You're holding with others no doubt.
Rowan Salim: Yeah. All right. Cool. So yeah, first, though, I also want to acknowledge that it's, what I'm doing is that there's an incredible world alternatives out there. And it's actually beautiful. We can talk about that later. And the work that I'm doing has come from being inspired by work that's happening especially in India. There's a with I spent some time at Schanzer, which is the people's Institute for rethinking education developments, lots of work happening in South America, which is very much rooted in a in a deeper decolonizing. kind of ethos. So, so yeah, there's a fantastic network of alternatives that's emerging, it's absolute beautiful is not happening in the UK as well.
Marina Robb: What we'll do is in the show notes, we'll just put a few links. So people can actually kind of track that. Yeah. Fantastic.
Rowan Salim: Yeah. So I got back to the UK decided to appear. And one of the things and I did a PGCE talk for a couple of years in a in a normal in a mainstream like Academy. And there are a number of things which I thought needed healing. So one of them was an most of them around connection and relationship. So it felt to me that while we as humans need relationships, and sometimes that gets lost in the rush for grades or for curriculum, or whatever it is. So there are two projects, I'm involved in two main projects, one of them is free, we grow. So free we grow is a small. So initially, we call the democratic children's community. It's very much inspired by the ideas of as Neil, but also in what and Summerhill school, but also really at its essence is trying to create a space where children are, are respected for who they are, and can be in an authentic relationships with each other, with the adults that then that they have relationships with, and with the land. So trying to create a space that is not authoritarian, not coercive, we first got into that with the term democratic. And then over the first few years, so we've been open for six years now moved away from democracy as a term, even though the ideas are important and towards sociocracy.
The main the main difference being that a socio-cratic system is consensus based. So we're a very small community, we're only 12 children, and two adults. And because we're so small, everybody knows everybody else. And we can make decisions by consent, which means that the way the space is run, the activities that we do, all the decisions around our agreements, and our rules are made, are made with an equal say, of between children and adults. The adults have slightly more responsibility when it comes to health and safety and safeguarding. But in essence, the space is run by the kids. The other important. So by doing that, what you're enabling what the fundamental thing about who grows trust, so you trust that you trust that children are, are naturally curious, you trust that the world is a fascinating place. And you trust that by providing a space where they can have direct connection with the world with each other with adults, they'll be able to make decisions that make sense both for themselves and for their community. So that, that operates in terms of the kind of social systems within this space. But it also operates in deciding what we're going to learn and how we're going to learn it.
And what happens when you do that, is that children play. So free grow is all about play. It's really the only thing that happens and, and children are wired to play. And through play, they discover a lot. They discover, who they are, they discover who their peers are, they discover what the world is about. And they push that play in a way that feels safe for them in a way that feels curious and like aligned with their curiosity and that's why they're able to have free access to the world. So with free we grow we're based in a nature reserve in in South London. So they have their kind of it's kind of free range. So they can be there's a there are two rooms, there's a field centre and there's an outdoor space and they can be inside or outside. But we also operate this we're also inspired by side Have a School Without Walls.
So we live in London London's incredible. So we can also go out to local parks libraries and go to trips to central London. So essentially the world is their oyster. But they have a community in which to operate and in which to have strong relationships. One of the things that really good tryouts are a, you're gonna ask something?
Marina Robb: Well, I was gonna ask just about, I've heard you use this word play intelligence.
Rowan Salim: Oh, yeah. Tell us about that.
Marina Robb: Well, I've read it somewhere. I read it somewhere. And I just liked that word. And, and, you know, and I also heard, you've used this word, how can we be play allies, as well? And I am really curious about that. I'm curious, I understand, from my own experience, how play is the way we learn, the way we grow the way we socialize everything? Yeah, but I do think it continues to be incredibly undervalued. And I think it's, I'm wondering, within your context, first of all, are they primary school age? Are they the early years up to primary?
Rowan Salim: Yeah, they're they age from five to 12.
Marina Robb: So I'm curious about how those children transition? Or do they transition to then a mainstream secondary, what happens? I mean, I just feel like I could talk for hours about so many things. But I often, when they're when children go to something that's different, I often wonder how they then what do they do next?
Rowan Salim: Yep. So let me answer first about playing then. So yeah, I love the term play allies, and play intelligence. Really, what we try to do as adults in this space is to, so we're not teachers were facilitators, you trust that children are capable. So their children are incredibly capable, what they need is relationships of trust, and in order to be able to find their edge, and they're constantly trying to find their edge. So it's kind of leans also into this idea of flow. So flow states, and that flow states, which is this space, where you're operating on the edge of your capacity, and you know where you want to go, but you don't necessarily know we kind of know how to get there, but your everything, when you're in your bodies driving you driving you forth, and children are always looking for that edge.
And whether that is you know, playing outside in the woods and looking and seeing how far they can jump or how high they can jump for playing with sticks. And, you know, reading the other person's body language and knowing how for two to two, how strong to whack or, or whether that's looking at numbers and trying to figure out whether you can, you can do your multiplication, timetables and the sevens and eights, there's always that edge of your being. And I think children are seek that. And if they feel safe, they can go there. But I think that they'll seek it as well. And what we try to do is, there's a term that my friend Sophie Christofi helped me COVID coin, which is guardians of flow. So as facilitators, we trust that the children are going to play and we support them, we guard their flow. So we support them to be able to find that space, whether that's giving them space, so just saying you can be in the woods and standing back, or whether that's providing the resources or materials that help them explore their interests further.
So that's, that's what, that's what we do there. So that leads me on to what happens after freebie growth. If you have if you have children who are confident, who are happy, who are able to communicate who are able to form healthy relationships, who know what they're interested in, who are able to learn how to learn. So I can't guarantee that children will know their seventh and eighth timetables, but then to be honest, neither can school right? When you leave,
Marina Robb: I can't do that now.
Rowan Salim: I read, I read a statistic. I trained as an MFL teacher more than four languages and I read a statistic once that on average students who did their GCSE modern foreign languages in the 90s I think it was a recall five words of that language. Yeah. So you spend a lot of your time learning stuff that you'll forget as soon as the exam is over, and that feels it feels to me like an absolute waste of time and of life when that could be used being in flow doing something you love and enjoy. So that you who have left free regrow have gone to a variety of things. Some of them have gone to mainstream school and they've done absolutely fine. Some of them have continued to be home educated. And some of them have gone to other kinds of democratic slash. So Socratic self directed learning communities. There's one that is free to access in South London called The New School, which is offset it is free to access, but it's operates on socio-cratic terms and, and value self directed learning, as well.
Marina Robb: So I'm wondering, as I said, there's going to be more information in the show notes. I mean, I feel like we're less like, oh, just looking in this a little crack to find out a little bit about this. But because we started, for me, talking about the wider implications of this notion of Educational Progress or progress from an international perspective. And you talked about valuing different ways of knowing I'm wondering how this model reflects some of that. And, you know, because I understand that, we were, well, I'm interested in how, yeah, all young people can have developed some of those qualities that you've just been describing. Right? I'm very interested in that. And I'm less interested in about what it's called. But I'm interested in, you know, the ingredients if you like, but because we talked about that international perspective, and how we've had a story of education, how is this story different? And how does it, I suppose, expand our idea of what could be possible.
Rowan Salim: Yeah. So I love this question, partly because, like, we're all on a journey, right? So we don't know what the destination is, it's like we're on a pilgrimage without a destination. Or we have a dream destination, which is, you know, sustainable, happy, vibrant. Life, which is in flow and, and balance and harmony. So that's what we're trying to get to right, or whatever word you want to use for it. Now, in order to get there, we can only experiment, we can only experiment. And what we can also do is, is a question ourselves, it is what I'm doing aligned with my values. So our main kind of value and freebie growth, integrity, because you can have lots of values, but are you able to in your day to day, act in alignment with them is what you're doing? Aligned with, you know, values of trust, or respect or love, love, we don't talk about love enough, Paul Warwick have done a pedagogy of love. And I want to sing the praises of that.
Marina Robb: Let's link to Yeah
Rowan Salim: we need to be able to, to talk about love and to act and to, to be able to act in alignment. And then if we're able to do that in our journey, then we can potentially get somewhere that is aligned with those values as well. What I'm inspired by, and this kind of connects to the community garden, is creating spaces where we're learning was, so where, if we're learning in spaces, which are not just boxes, but we're learning in spaces, which are wild, if we're learning in the commons, if we're learning in the community gardens, if we're learning by the streams, and in England, we have this pickable history of enclosure and of disconnecting people from the land.
So that, you know, in the city, if anything, the land is a stranger, it's not. It's not some people are acquainted with the land and have parks that they go to, or very few people know the land like their kin, like their kid have a relationship with it. But if we're able to move to a place where children can grow up knowing land, where they know the willow, they know the hawthorn and they know the elder, and they know the oak, then what will my kind of dream is that you then the ways of knowing are also around those materials, the material culture that we have. So if we're able to, if we're able to have enough wilderness around us and know the wilderness and manage it and care for it, so that we're making our own clothes out of nettles, so that we're weaving our own baskets out of Willow so that we're You know, foraging and growing, whether it's, you know, ground elder isn't that tasty, but we're getting our spices, if we're getting our spices from our local forest, then then you're getting into a space where you have local economies, where making is valued again, making and growing and caring for the land, where you don't need to ship your tooth, plastic toothbrushes from the other side of the world, because you're making your own toothbrushes here, where we have a local economy, then that knowledge that knowledge we do not have anymore.
There's incredible movements in the UK trying to bring back that knowledge. But if we can have a local economy of making and crafts and value that and then we take care of things, because we've made them ourselves, and we don't need to buy a new bag every season, then we're starting to get into a place where our values are aligned with what the earth can sustain, and where our livelihoods are based on relationships where we know where something has come from. So then we care for it. And, and we value it.
Marina Robb: Yeah, absolutely. So I'm wondering about a teacher, a parent, somebody in a mainstream situation that has never foraged, you know, never weaved a basket, never actually even had much chance to go outside, because that's also what we're, what the what many of us are immersed in, you know, our grandparents, our parents didn't have that either, necessarily. Right. So what, is there any is there one or two small shifts? Would it be a practical shift? Would it be a mind shift set shift? That could take us to the next place? You know? Yeah. Is there anything because we're gonna close this now. Is there anything that you feel? Because I know you have your feet in both worlds and many worlds? You know, it's not just the dream is there? And, yeah, let's make it a reality. But we also need to make some tangible steps, don't we? That feel in your party, you know, you talked about consent based education that's listening to everybody to wherever they're at? Yeah, whatever their ways are? Yes. Anything you could offer the listeners today that might think you know, I can't get my head around that. Yeah, I'll find out more go to the show notes. I'll read a bit more. But right now, is there any little shift that you would encourage? It could be with the way you speak to the children? It could be anything, you know, what would that be?
Rowan Salim: Oh, thank you for that question. I think it's relationship, and, and listening, and time. So what children really need is time. And sometimes that's time to find their words, time to not be rushed. And in a way, like the world around us, nature, if you will need to time as well, time to be seen. And listening and being seen as relational. So, if you sometimes you think, Oh, we don't have time, to give time, but when you give time you get time. It's a mirror thing. So I think, it's slowing down. There's biochem Alafaya has a great quote, which I love, which is these times are urgent. Let us slow down. So I would take that I would slow down. I would whether you're in a classroom with 30 kids, and everybody wants to say something, actually taking the time to say it, whether it's you're just finding one tree in your neighbourhood, there's a term I love which is tree blindness, which is that we actually stopped seeing the trees. The other day in a community garden, I was talking to a guy in his 50s who is getting involved in our forest garden. And spring was just spring was just breaking. And he said the trees have all died. I said, What do you mean he's like they're all dead. None of them have any leaves. And I said, well, but it's spring is about to come. They'll remake and he said yeah, but they haven't had leaves for months. I've been looking at them and he just hadn't quite realized that trees lose their leaves in winter and grow with them again in spring because he also until he started having a relationship with specific trees, you've never quite noticed that. And you can study the seasons at school. But unless you take time to observe them, it's hard to really tune into how the world works. And if you if you appreciate that, but you know, the wild has seasons that nature season, then you realize that we have seasons as well. And that gives us a respite as well that we can stop and take a break and lose our leaves bloom again. So taking time, and maybe just getting to know one tree, even giving, you know, giving, you know, a child in your family or in your neighbourhood. It doesn't have to be or in your classroom time to just really say and play and be heard. And then and then built and then that is reciprocated back.
Marina Robb: Yeah. Thank you so much, Rowan. I've taken a deep breath, many deep breaths during this conversation. And I really appreciate you reminding me about time. And it is in those moments of slowing down that somehow something else can happen. Yeah. So thank you. And I look forward to connecting another time and go well. And this cat by the way for viewers, obviously you can't You're not viewers, your listeners. You haven't been saying but we've had a cat, a cat. Well, I imagine it's your camera and walking around you pretty much for the whole podcast if there was a little like, interference. That's because of the tail of the cat, knocking the speakers. So I'm glad that your lovely cat has been part of this conversation.
Rowan Salim: So that just means it loves a good zoom call.
Marina Robb: Thank you and yeah, go well.
Rowan Salim: Thank you, Marina. Bye bye.
Marina Robb: Thanks for speaking to me, Rowan. Join me next week for episode 20 where I want to return to the need to slow down and how the seasons and the wisdom of trees remind us of our nature and our inner landscape.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Wild Minds Podcast. If you enjoyed it and want to help support this podcast, please subscribe, share and leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts. Your review will help others find the show. To stay updated with the wild mines podcast and get all the behind the scenes content. You can visit theoutdoorteacher.com or follow me on Facebook at the outdoor teacher UK and LinkedIn. Marina Robb,
The music was written and performed by Geoff Robb.
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