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Meadow Meander pedagogy project: developing a 'living laboratory' for Warwick campus

Meadow Meanders are simple maze-like pathways modelled on major ecological aspects of Earth in meadows, parks, city squares, playgrounds, sports-fields, beaches, moorlands and other open spaces. They combine land art, nature trail, gallery display and immersive performance to produce dynamic and enlivening experience of 'glocal' ecosystem processes. They create environmental puzzles whose playful 'open-secret' solutions can involve a very diverse range of individuals and groups across generations in exploring the ecologies of interacting climates, landscapes and species. As a popular hybrid art form they encourage challenging and enjoyable discovery of ecological connectivity – econnectivity – for all.

Since 2011 Meadow Meanders have been created and tested in Devonshire rural meadows, a former city cemetery in Leeds, an urban ex-airport in Berlin, and on three linked sites at Warwick University. They have also including two major international theatre and performance conferences. Over 900 people have used them and feedback indicates ecologically diverse and dynamic experiences with potential transformative effects. Their combination of somatic ecological pleasures and gently challenging cognitive puzzles of coded environmental facts offers an in-between space that can uniquely engage individual disciplines even as they overlap and interact. So the design of Meadow Meanders offers highly accessible sites for developing innovative pedagogies and curricula, multi-disciplinary research methods, and trans-disciplinary explorations.

This IATL pilot project aims mainly to explore how these paths can reinforce open-space, student-led and ecologically responsible learning and research programmes. It responds specifically to Warwick's Building Bridges for Education for Sustainability report (2013) by addressing the challenge of combining imaginative academic interdisciplinary study with extra-curricula, estates-based and community-focussed creative action. In 2014 the project successfully completed its Phase 1 plan by introducing meandering to 40 Warwick students, running workshops with four local secondary schools, and training 30 international theatre scholar-practitioners in using meanders as an ecologically dynamic teaching and research resource.

In 2015 the project is also training two groups of undergraduate and postgraduate students drawn from a wide range of disciplines in methods and skills for creatively designing and making new types of meander. The students also will have opportunities to participate in follow-up workshops with secondary school students, and possibly new ones with primary schools. The project will conclude with a symposium for Warwick students and academics, plus visitors from other UK universities. A multi-disciplinary advisory team has been formed with academics drawn from science, education, humanities and arts. Colleagues interested in observing or learning more about the project please contact Co-investigator Rachel King (R dot E dot King at warwick dot ac dot uk).

The project team is: Co-investigators Prof. Baz Kershaw (Performance/Theatre Studies) and Dr Rachel King (Centre for Education Studies); Research Assistants Emily Temple (Centre for Education Studies) and Hanzhi Ruan (Centre for Cultural Policy Studies).

Prof Baz Kershaw, School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies and Earthrise Repair Shop, Devon: After abandoning being an engineer, Baz Kershaw simultaneously spent half his career as a writer/devisor/director/designer in experimental/community/radical/ecological theatre and performance, and the other half as a scholar/author/editor/teacher in colleges and universities. He has been twice honoured nationally and internationally by UK and overseas performing arts peers for his scholarly and creative record, but has only once won a seriously competitive award: a silver budgerigar badge for a primary school poem on how he spent his holidays.