Learning on foot

By Daniel Kardyb, PhD student

A man named Tim Ingold lives in Scotland. He is  a Professor of Anthropology. Stories from here and there, present and past are piled on his bookshelf and overflowing desk. There are reports from North Finnish tribes, pre-protestant monasteries and our western world. Ingold is a master of binding stories together from near and far, and those veils of importance that he weaves at his keyboard make our otherwise homely reality seem both familiar and alien at the same time.

Leading children out into the world

One word that appears often in his writing is education.  For Ingold, education is not just something that occurs in schools with classrooms and exam tables. Education as a phenomenon goes much further back in time than our modern institutions. Ingold points to two different historical lineages of the word education. On the one hand, the word educare can be translated into 'to raise' and thus  teaching children about general customs and knowledge.

On the other hand, the word 'educere', composed of the words ex (out) and ducere (to lead). In this other sense, education is about leading children out into the world rather than giving them a certain knowledge. In Ingold's words, it's all about 'literally inviting the learner out for a walk'. Not with the intention of teaching them something specific, but with attention. Not with the intention of reaching a specific destination, but to have experiences while you are walking.

Going for a walk

When I read Tim Ingold's texts, they make me think of Naturkraft. For example, when he playfully demonstrates how people's understanding of themselves and their world has changed over time, I immediately think of the exhibitions in the main building. But it is especially the idea of going for a walk as a form of education that awakens the associations.

Because no matter how you experience Naturkraft, it is the act of going for a walk that forms the framework. As families with children on their way from the entrance to the park's ziplines and sledging hills. As adult friends on their way between the park's diverse planted areas to the view of the west coast's nature. And it's true that every walk can take on a different form. Sometimes you just need to find the ice cream shop. But most walks around Naturkraft motivate people with curiosity. What kind of place is this? Where is it most windy today? Is this nature?

Detours and meanderings

Naturkraft doesn't have to be education, but if you nevertheless choose to understand Naturkraft as a form of education, it may be precisely in this movement – in this conscious yet directionless walk – that places like this have their own distinctive characteristics. There are no facts here; just stories and sensory experiences that each provide a little hint about nature and its context. There are no tests that need to be passed to earn the right to come back. No dead ends. Only detours and meanderings for those impassioned by the experience.

Knowledge is needed

But, questions the critical reader, what about school education? Should it be rejected in favour of random strolls in experience parks and wild, wonderful Denmark? No. We have to be extremely careful with such literal understandings. And yet, Ingold will probably insist that going for walks can be something that schools have traditionally found more challenging. On a walk, the experience comes first and knowledge comes afterwards.  Knowledge is needed, but in a world that is constantly evolving and changing, it may first and foremost require a curious and attentive perspective to put your foot in the right place.

P.S. For curious people, I recommend the chapter "The Maze and the Labyrinth” by Tim Ingold from the book Psychology and the conduct of everyday life. Routledge, 2016.

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