Engage with Nature-Based Solutions

Marlene Creates & Don McKay: The Boreal Poetry Garden

Marlene Creates and Don McKay are Governor General’s Award winning artists. Creates is a landscape artist; McKay is a poet and philosopher. Together, they are creating a series of place-based art workshops to engage school-aged children in memory-mapping and climate mapping in Newfoundland. 

Their project addresses both creative experiences in and representations of place, which have prospects for adaptability and transferability to other locations and all age groups. Their work involves inviting children to participate in guided walks in The Boreal PoetryGarden, which is a six-acre (2.4 hectare) patch of old-growth boreal forest traversed by the Blast Hole Pond River in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland/ Ktaqmkuk. This site has been the focus of Marlene Creates’s work as an environmental artist since moving to the site in 2002.

For the past 40 years, Marlene has used memory maps in her own artwork and she has led dozens of memory mapping workshops with all ages. Recent studies in cognitive science and psychology have found that “Raw intelligence, it seems, is intertwined with our brain’s spatial cognition aptitude. […] This insight has come at a time when young people in general are experiencing less and less demand to exercise their spatial navigation skills. […] [T]he sedentary, habitual, and technology-dependent conditions of modern living are changing how children and even adults use their brains.”
—M.R. O’Connor, “Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World,” St. Martin’s Press, NY, 2019.

Way-finding and global warming are entangled in a number of ways: Keeping a healthy hippocampus — the part of the brain involved in way-finding — might help mitigate anxiety over the climate crisis. Anxiety and despair lead to inaction. Providing these experiences and activities for children in The Boreal Poetry Garden is a way of encouraging their appreciation of the local boreal forest ecosystem, as well as providing an antidote to a dependence on technology. The children’s memory maps are about their subjective perceptions of this patch of old growth boreal forest — perceptions they gained by their 3-dimensional, embodied, and situated experiences on the ground. We believe it’s crucially important for children to learn about our environment through multi-sensorial experiences on the tangible land, as opposed to the increasing amount of time they spend looking at screens — both in and out of school.

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#forest #rural #watershed
#creative place-making #mapping & visualization