Published: Feb. 14, 2018

Marin field studiesJoin Ananda Marin, assistant professor of education at UCLA, for "Walking, Reading, and Storying the Land: Learning in the Natural World," the first talk in the spring series, Learning in Informal Settings, at 3:30pm in the CU Museum of Natural History's Paleontology Hall.

Marin studies socio-cultural dimensions of learning and development in everyday and intergenerational contexts. Her talk will draw from research by Indigenous scholars and interaction analysis traditions, as we discuss walking, reading, and storying the land as a methodology for learning about the natural world. Illustrated by parent and child video from one family’s nature walk, Marin will explore the ways in which shifts in movement — from walking to stopping — and configurations of the landscape provide both the means and content for learning.

The Learning in Informal Settings features innovative informal learning experts from museums to makerspaces to outdoor places, and it is co-sponsored by the CU Boulder School of Education and the Museum of Natural History.  All talks are free and open to the public, and attendees are invited to a reception following the talks.

We caught up with Professor Marin to learn more about how her upbringing contributed to her interests in the natural world and intergenertaional learning and her research.

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Q. When and why did you become interested in intergenerational learning and the natural world?

Like many people, I grew up playing outside. My sister and I would spend hours riding our bikes in the neighborhood or swimming at the beach. Growing up in the Chicago area, my parents would often take us to different forest preserves on the weekend, because they wanted us to spend time outdoors and because it was an affordable activity we could do as a family.

When I was very young, my parents and I lived with my grandmother. I think because my parents were involved in the music and arts, I ended up spending a lot of time in spaces that were intergenerational. Learning about the natural world and being in intergenerational contexts were a part of my everyday world.

Q. What initial expriences contributed to your interest in research and insights from Indigenous scholars?

In 2005, I was invited to participate in a community-based design research project, The Cultural Contexts of Learning by Megan Bang, one of the project PIs. The project was a collaborative effort between members of the American Indian Center of Chicago, researchers from Northwestern University, and tribal members from the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin. Participating in this project brought many of my personal experiences together in a research context. As a designer, teacher, and researcher on the project, I had the privilege of being a part of a community that was using research methods to create intergenerational learning spaces that reimagined viable relationships between humans and the natural world and privileged Indigenous voices in ways that moved beyond historicized timeframes.

Q. What do you mean by “reading and storying the land,” and what insights might attendees of your talk gain as educators and learners?

Reading and storying land is a way of being in relation with the natural world. For centuries, human communities have developed practices to observe the world around them and share those observations so that knowledge gets passed on. For example, when strolling through a park, we might hear a child say something like “Tell me a story about when we saw the frog” or “Remember when the river here was flooded?” From these directives and questions, parents and children jointly construct stories about their previous and in-the-moment observations. At a basic level, this kind of interaction captures what I mean by “reading and storying the land.”

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Save the Dates for future talks

  • April 3, 7 p.m. Old Main Chapel: David George Haskell, Professor at Sewanee, the University of the South and Pulitzer Prize finalist for “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature,”
  • May 1, 3:30 p.m. Museum of Natural History's Paleontology Hall: Carrie Tzou, Associate Professor at the University of Washington, Bothell

For more information visit the CU Museum event page or call 303-492-6892.